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The French Loaf Trumps All

By Keith O'Brien
Sandy met Dave and fell in love. She fell in love, but not the head-over-heels, give up the farm for him love that only happened to people on failed television shows. She encountered the love that said, “When we’re old and you smell and have digestive problems, I won’t mind because it’s you.” That is the only poignant love because we all get old and that’s when it’s important to have someone. Some may escape the indignity of offensive odors, but it’s safe to say that no one escapes the wrath of colon problems. It’s easy to be in love when we’re young because we’re never more perfect and beautiful then the day we are born and wondering why everything got so bright all of a sudden and we are placed in the arms of a woman in bed who looks like she just woke up after a four-day bender. Take that, original sin.

Sandy met Dave in line in a small supermarket. In fact, she met him right as she began to think whether or not she could classify the place as a supermarket. She knew it was wrong to refer to the place as a market because that connotation implied goats milling about and haggling for zucchini. If she were to describe the place to her friends as merely a “market,” they might be deterred because they did not like haggling. On the other hand, it did not have pre-prepared meal or store-brand items, so it clearly was not a supermarket. She settled on calling it a “place where goods were sold to you if you had the proper amount of money and pants.”

Regardless of its designation, it is the place where relationships are fated to begin if people paid more attention to their surrounding environment. Dave first caught her eye when he asked the cashier if the store had any fresh bread. The cashier gave a shrug and returned her attention to the customer with seventeen tins of cat food. What she knew and failed to mention was that the store, in fact, did sell what they called “fresh bread.” And, they did, in fact, plan on making it daily and selling that day, but could not due to the wonderful shop specializing in leavened products two blocks away. So, the bread that once sat proudly in its plastic abode with steam escaping the nooks now sat slowly dying as the moisture ascended to Starch Heaven. The cashier did all of her grain shopping at said bread shop, but she failed to offer this information. The reason for such callousness was that she had a boyfriend and did not feel the need to be nice for no reason. The attractive man looked like he would be up to the challenge of the bizarre sex acts she preferred, but she was already attached to a man who did not beat her and took her to moderately-priced restaurants where the menus did not have a tacky font or mascot. There usually was a wine list and, though she did not drink wine, made her feel comfortable in mentioning that her boyfriend took her to that particular restaurant for their anniversary or birthday or just out of kindness. Besides, she reasoned that he was probably gay as the monotonous beep of a bar code hitting laser resounded throughout the store. She did not have an adequate reason for assuming he was gay, it just made things a little easier. No need for apologies.

Since the clerk eschewed the opportunity to inform Dave, Sandy possessed the ability to alter his dining destiny. She also knew about the bread store down the block, as she was a regular customer. Most people in the area were regular customers. The cashier shrugged her shoulders because she had an adequate boyfriend and good men were hard to find these days. However, more importantly, finding good bread proved nearly impossible. The man did not pose the question to others in the line; he merely stood there with his posture a bit crumpled, dejected at the prospect of a great meal sans the nice Ciabatta. At the time of the supermarket/market visit, Sandy lay in the middle of errand mode and even the slightest break could throw the whole routine off. If she decided to be a Good Samaritan, it wasn’t as simple as just telling him about the store. She needed to take him to the store herself due to the misleading storefront and broken door hinge. If she chose this path, she would fall ten minutes behind in her schedule and have to cut out the trip to the craft shop. But, then, reality hit her with its jab, jab, uppercut, roundhouse, jab, jab, jab (bell rings). An attractive man was asking for her help and she stood there debating the merits of her new knitting hobby. And, Josie, a likewise despondent single woman and Sandy’s spinster arch-nemesis, looked like she was willing to take him there first. No fucking way.

“Actually, there’s a great bread store a couple blocks down if you don’t mind the walk. I could take you there if you’d like.”

She could not have sounded more desperate if she was trying to win a prize on said feeling.

The cashier softly whispered, “He’s gay.” Josie nodded in agreement for the sole purpose that she hoped that their certainty of his sexual preference would make it so.

Dave agreed without thinking about Sandy’s motivation – he did not view this friendly gesture as a slick attempt at companionship. He did not care who brought him to the bread as long as it was there. Some people are hopeless romantics who do everything based on how close it will get him/her to Ms. or Mr./Ms. or Mr. Right. Some people just want a nice French loaf.

He had a cigarette outside while he waited for Sandy to get her modest collection of produce rung up by the cashier. It was the cashier’s birthday and she was lost in her attempt to guess where her boyfriend would take her to eat that night. There was a new Thai restaurant on Grove Street and, although she did not care for Thai food, her friends lamented about how difficult it had been to get reservations since the grand opening. She wondered if he finagled reservations as a result of careful planning or using a favor he had saved for this very moment! She could fill up on bread before the dinner and then eat a small portion, reasoning that she was trying to slim down. He’d love it. What a perfect evening it would be. “Price check on new potatoes.”

Dave finished his cigarette and began to light up the next one when Sandy walked out the store sighing all the way. They exchanged humorous observations on the absent-minded cashier and the man with the horrible sense of fashion in line. Nothing brings strangers together better than scorn for their fellow man. Sandy clearly wasn’t Cosmopolitan material herself, but she dressed conservative enough so that no one could gain anything from commenting about her style. She avoided risks with her apparel, but mentioning that served as nothing but a flippant remark and no one likes flippant people.

Dave, on the other hand, dressed quite formally for his grocery run, which meant he either just came from an important job that required pressed suits or he stood before her desperately single. She would take either.

Today was the one-year anniversary of the latest installment of Sandy’s single career. We’re not even talking about a year with nothing more than one-night stands and failed first dates. We’re talking about a year of society-imposed celibacy; a year plagued by record battery expenses. She planned her activities for the night as meticulous as the cashier hoped her boyfriend did (he did not, she found out later at TGIF’s). She bought ingredients for the amazing meal she was going to prepare for herself. For some reason, anniversaries of any kind call for excess. If the people involved resorted to these excesses during the entire duration of the period responsible for said celebration, they’d either be broke or in rehab.

She planned on making a gourmet meal for one, enjoying it while enjoying an engaging dialogue with the chair. She would follow proper etiquette for such a meal and situation and after the dishes had been done with care to the stylings of the local soft rock station (alternatively singing and crying when "After All" (Peter Cetera and Cher) and "We Belong to the Night" (Pat Benatar) came on the radio (those songs for no particular reason). After she surveyed the kitchen to make sure everything was spotless, she would take out a fresh bottle of tequila, two tubs of ice cream and a porno movie and attempt to get to the end of them all. If she made it to a point of intoxicated consciousness, she would eventually wander around the house to look under the couch and behind the refrigerator for clues to help her figure out why she was alone when much more putrid, mean and other negative terms sweated off some stress. She planned this evening because it mirrored her six-month celebration. Only the fancy dinner was planned, the rest sort of happened. But now that she was in the presence of a handsome stranger, she started thinking her evening might change.

It seemed perfect. She showed him this new place to buy bread (and since he did not know about it, he must be new in the area), he sighs and says how hard it has been to find good bread in the city, she adds 'and good friends,' he agrees, she nods, he invites her to dinner, she agrees, he cleans up his messy apartment, she unwraps the ceremonial bra and panties she was saving for such an occasion, grabs the bottle of tequila and suggests Margaritas, he opens the door to expose her to the place she would be sleeping on and off until they moved in together, she smiles, he smiles, his friend smiles, she looks puzzled, he introduces his boyfriend, she smiles (though we know it’s not sincere), the door closes.

Before all of that happened, they stood in the store. Her smitten kitten expression alerted Dave to her affection affliction, so he dropped hints that should help send her to a disappointing conclusion prior to the evidence that waited back at his apartment.

She pointed him to the Italian bread section, brushing her breasts against his arm using perfectly correct form. If he was not interested, it appears that she just leaned in to tell him something because the air conditioning was noisy. If he were interested, he would read into the meaning behind the brush. Sandy could perfect this move better than most and she was always delighted to give it a go.

“I’m gay,” Dave said, getting a zero for style. There is something disturbing about a person who does not trust that the conversation can be led to whatever subject he or she wants it to. Lack of patience makes a human lacking.

“I know,” she says, grabbing his arm and interlocking it with hers.

“Is she a dyke?” he wondered. He was usually on point with this sort of thing (not Gaydar, just intuition, which is neither a trait for the straight nor the queers). But, at soon as he said those two words, he worried that she would wait ten seconds (so to not seem shady), snap her fingers and remember about some engagement that was so important she could not get out of it, despite the fact that it had slipped her mind until a short while after he said he was gay. Do people think that they’re clever or do they deny the possibility that others have intelligence? Regardless, she swung her arms around joyously as if the cares of the world were frightened of her. So, having found a new friend (it really was tough meeting people in the city), he swung his around joyously too.

In all honesty, Dave should not feel bad that things turned out the way they did. The idea for dinner came when she SHE (not he) mentioned that it was hard to find friends (not bedmates, lovers or snuggle partners – whatever your personal fancy) in the city. He agreed and, therefore, invited her to dinner with no vague propositions or winks. Hell, if you were supposed to have sex with every person you had dinner with, it would be quite an odd world. What would constitute “dinner with?” How would a restaurant work? And when you walked out of the restaurant after paying your bill, would you have to fornicate with people who had ordered or just sat down without taking a bite yet? There were too many rules in our society already and besides, even though Democratics controlled the Senate, I don’t think they would be too keen to pass something like that after the sex-scandals of the past. Who would back the bill anyway? That would be career suicide.

The door closed behind her as both men jockeyed to take her coat, get the blender going and serve up those frothy beverages. Everyone: gay, straight and in-between love Margaritas. This universal truth was unfortunately left out of “Everything I Needed To Know I Learned In Kindergarten” books. She internally laughed that these two men were dying to get her clothes (jacket) off and imbibe her with alcohol, but the end result would be a bit different than she was usually accustomed to. Perhaps a Shirley MacLaine video and grooming tips? They certainly would not be searching for her underwear amongst nudie magazines and sports equipment. How she longed for those days.

It took everything within her soul and panty hose to stop her from concocting a lousy excuse so she go home to salvage what was left of her night. She gave up the tequila, did not have enough time to make the dinner and forgot to pick up the ice cream… but porn always comforted.

The men noticed her discomfort (hard not to when she did not move from the front door) and Dave’s boyfriend shot Dave an “I hope you told her – I’m sick of these misguided females” look. Dave flashed back an “I told you I told her – are we going to start assuming we’re lying whenever we talk to each other?” look (actually, there was more to it, but it’s hard to get that all down).

“I’m Ray,” Dave’s boyfriend said (from here on out, Dave’s boyfriend is Ray).

“I know.”

“How did you know?”

“It’s quite obvious.”

“Are you one of those people who can tell a persons name by their mannerisms and appearance? I’m fascinated by them.”

“I don’t know. Tell me your name and I’ll guess.”

“I just told you: Ray.”

“No you just told me you were gay.”

“No, I didn’t. I told you I was Ray.”

“I told you I was gay at the bread store today,” Dave interrupted.

“No you told me you were Dave and I said I knew because you had already mentioned it to me earlier,” she said somehow unable to make the connection that was should have become obvious.

“I don’t normally say this to people I’ve just met, let alone people I have invited to my house, but, do you think you might need your hearing checked?” Dave said.

“You have to admit, though the fault is all mine, that Dave, Ray and gay do kind of rhyme,” she said.

“Yeah, I do, but so do emancipation and constipation. If you were listening to Lincoln’s speech right now, you’d be a bit confused.”

“Would you have come if Dave did not have the annoying habit of talking so soft?” Ray asked.

“Fuck off. She did not understand you either. Perhaps that’s because you don’t look at people when you talk to them.”

“Oh, stop fighting. I’d probably not be here if I’d heard that you were gay, not because I disprove. Well, I guess I disprove because I thought Dave was attractive and I’ve been having a bit of a dry spell lately, but that’s not important now. What’s important is that I will not be here if you guys continue to bicker. Dave you talk too soft and Ray you don’t look at people when you talk to them. We all have our faults and mine is hitting on gay guys,” Sandy said.

“Has this happened before?” Dave asked, leaving to answer the ringing phone before waiting for an answer.

“Not really, but when you have not had any action for a year, you tend to dwell on the situations where something even slightly romantic occurs.”

“A year? Someone as attractive as you? I’ll tell you if I were not attached to this old ball and chain, I’d go for you in a second,” Ray said.

“And don’t forget ‘not gay,’ ” she added.

“I’m bi.” Ray said almost in a whisper as if he did not want Dave to know. Perhaps Dave did not know.

“How does one become bisexual? How does one turn the switch the sex switch on and off?”

“It’s nothing different than being in a monogamous relationship. When you are dating someone, you turn off the switch for everyone else. Same for me,” his voice had become barely audible, which made it clear that Dave stood (sometimes kneeling) unaware.

“When you’re not with someone, how do you choose which sex to go for?”

“It’s the same with everyone. I can’t speak for the rest of the bi’s, but I shop for the best possible candidate that will have me – I just have a bigger mall.”

“Dave doesn’t know, does he?”

He began to speak, but Dave stumbled into the room, attempting to balance three margaritas between his hands and chest. Ray got up to help him, leaving the answer to float in the air, with its cousins “will you marry me?” “do I look fat in this?” and “when was the last time the Chicago Cubs won the World Series?”

Sandy spent the duration of dinner hypothesizing the reason for Ray’s covertness. Was there some sort of tension between the homosexuals and the bisexuals? Did Ray have a shady past that involved infidelity and multiple partners? Did he want her?

She enjoyed the dinner immensely – due to the fact that she was not left alone to cry her eyes out. And she loved her two new friends, even though they were both attractive and only attracted to each other. It’s one thing to be the third wheel in a heterosexual relationship; it’s another to be one in a situation where neither would even consider her (though she was still unsure of Ray’s motives).

The tequila bottle had run dry, which meant two things. One, they had drank enough to start feeling a bit cheeky. Two, it was time to get more. Dave volunteered to go out for it, which left to Ray and Sandy to get back to their original conversation… or so she thought. Ray started tackling her musical tastes – a surefire uneasy conversation derailment. Avoiding a conversation can only last minutes, though.

And, sure enough, they spent the next ten minutes fumbling, removing clothes and constantly glancing at the door. It’s not as if they could quickly put their clothes back on before the door swung open. The romped prove to be disappointing considering the fact that Ray focused on watching the door and didn’t appreciate Sandy’s breasts and Sandy paid too much attention to Ray concentrating on the door to notice her breasts heaving up and down with each pump. Common sense should have dictated that they give up in the middle to avoid getting in trouble for an act that wasn’t beneficial to either party. Despite the sex being pointless, they seemed content in seeing it through. Ray came with little fanfare and extricated himself from the situation before she even knew he had finished his business. Once properly attired, they both sat at the edge of the couch, thinking that Dave’s return was imminent. Minutes passed, however, and the door stood where it stood. They resorted to their personal twitches in times of nervous waiting – leg pumping up and down for the lady; forced coughs for monsieur. They started edging towards each other, contemplating a second go to pass the time. Just as he put his hand on her breast, Dave came storming in the door with bags flying and nonsensical sentences for the masses. While looking at the two on the couch, he launched into the story that he must have honed during the last three blocks of his journey home. Dave could be a raconteur for the evening and the two on the couch would surely be enthralled with his tale.

A person only has one opportunity to witness stories this good, so Dave practiced telling it on the way home. Most people have the tendency to destroy stories by including every minute detail that occurred. No matter how good a story is, if the listener realizes that the one regaling doesn’t have the ability to cut out the menial nonsense, he or she immediately tune out. Like that, the listener misses out on a great story because he/she tuned out. Like that, the listener misses out on his boyfriend staring passionately at a woman with his hand on her breast on the couch you saved up to buy because he tuned out.

It had been awhile since Ray or Sandy had been with a member of the opposite sex. Something occurred between the two of them – causing a huge bond to form. Dave might have been able to derail the passion, but he remained deep in story-telling mode, slamming cabinets and waving wooden spoons in their general direction to emphasize a point. What was the story about? No one knows – he wasn’t making sense.

Dave might have been oblivious to the attraction between the two because we have the tendency to subconsciously block out what we don’t want to know. Dave appreciated this considering his mother did the same thing years ago when he showed signs of homosexuality. Although he did not paint the picture of a raging queen like the portrayal of every gay character in movies as a child or Rufus Wainwright, but he did have little nuances that should have prepared her for the blow she faced ten years later. He went through the typical pretense of liking sports – even excelling in soccer. However, manly birthday and Christmas presents were tossed in a pile while his brother immediately ripped open his trucks and went off playing until dinner was ready. Anything that excited his brother depressed him, but they never suspected that he was different. “Just a moody little shit,” his mother’s repeated described to tea friends who listened (they all did). One of the tea brigade mothers also had a gay son who immediately acknowledged and announced his sexuality (at an age well before the other boy’s discovered the importance of Playboy. He turned out, as expected, to edit a gay zine) and exhibited the same behavior traits that Dave’s mother was describing. Dave’s mother dwelt in denial land (balmy weather 24/7) at the time and did not notice the similarity. Thusly, Dave’s mother continued to believe that her son was ungrateful, when, in fact, he was greatly misunderstood.

The night ended, as nights often do, with hugs distributed evenly between the three. Again, there was a perfect opportunity for Dave’s radar to pick up the awkwardness between Ray and Sandy, but his screen was broken. They agreed to eat on Tuesday, but more importantly, confirmed that they would eat together.

Sandy left and did the life-is-great-and-funny-and-amazing-and-I’d-add-more-adverbs-if-I-did-not-run-into-that-wall dance. After checking to make sure her nose wasn’t broken (it might have been, she’s not a doctor, is it supposed to bend like that?), she decided to celebrate a bit more calmly. Of course, when she slowed down her mania, her thought-process sped up. This never proved to be positive.

“How desperate am I that I fall in love with two men in one day, both gay, both attached… but since I managed to kiss one, I’m running into walls ecstatically? Could I be more pathetic?”

The answer to her question is “yes, of course anything is possible.” But, she should have noted that she was already initially low on the pathetic scale and would have to do great injustice to her pride to slide further down.

Reflections are important. She found herself attracted to Ray and did have a great deal of fun with Dave. In a perfect world, she would be dating Ray and Dave would be their gay friend. However, the perfect world shuttle will not be completed until 2013 and we can only use it in hypothetical situations. We’ve already remarked about her pitiful performance in the dating arena, but she was not a fan of romantic dramas and did not wish to make her life one. She imagined she would star in one if salaried, but there would be no reason to waste 60 million dollars on a Hollywood production, when people would opt to see it for free on “Will and Grace.”

So, she felt her only option was to weasel out of the pre-arranged Tuesday dinner and go straight to avoid-contact mode. She had both their numbers programmed into her cell phone, which, though originally conceived as a device to keep people in touch, is actually a brilliant instrument for keeping distance. Their numbers appear; she disappears.

She regretted her decision to show him the way to the bread shop. Not because it put her in this situation when she could have continued to thumb through People Magazine, but rather, she had to make a decision regarding visits to said bakery. She decided, she would rather have to be cruel and blunt in the store (if she ran into one of the two) rather than give up her right to fresh cinnamon and basil bread *despite preconceived notions about said combination, prognosis: really, really good*.

Of course, this was all moot because we all found out together that two people paid her a visit the next day. Ray and Dave? Gasp! Ray’s motivation spoke for itself, but Dave actually suggested the drop-by. Given some time to reflect, Dave (aided by his mother’s phone call, during which, the two talked about ignoring signs) realized the unavoidable attraction between the two. Dave wanted to test Ray’s loyalty because he had an admirer named Darrell at his PR firm who made an excellent crab bisque and was reputed to be the best lover in town. Against his better judgment, Dave won a Golden Globe for his role as the sentimental type who could not leave his current boyfriend unless he became a victim of a nasty affair. And, when someone has the reputation that his co-worker did, someone was bound to snatch him up. So, he needed to set up the trap.

Itinerary:

Ray and Dave show up with brown-bagged vodka.

Dave acts surprised when vodka bottle is nearly empty.

Insists he goes to purchase another one.

Tape recorder sinks into couch cushion.

Conclusion: TBA

Now, there was no possibility of anything going wrong with the tape recorder. With the amount of time and effort he put into the recorder and its capabilities, he should be able to freelance for the CIA. The truth would come out.

“What are you guys doing here?

“We’re here to sleep with you,” Dave said, not waiting to set the bait.

“My bed’s only big enough for two.”

“Oh, well, Ray won’t mind – he has to work tomorrow.”

They all laughed nervously as the gentlemen entered the apartment. Sandy put on some DiFranco and the play was set in motion.

“Fuck,” Dave said,

“What Dave?” Ray said.

“I got the wrong bottle,” Dave said.

“No matter, as long as there’s alcohol in it,” Sandy said.

“See, that’s the problem – there’s only a drop in it,” Dave said.

“How could you not notice the lightness of the bottle?” Ray said, either angry or suspicious

“Look, I’m not going to argue about this with you. I’ll go get another bottle and we’ll forget your mistake.”

Dave he was becoming more enamored with the idea of a new love conquest with the co-worker that he began pushing Ray towards the femme fatale.

Dave’s words shocked Ray because he, in fact, told Dave to check the bottle before they left. They had been drinking screwdrivers quite frequently during the month (they had a game where they went through a bartender’s black book, one of them putting his finger down randomly on an entry and dubbing that concoction “drink of the month.” and Ray was pretty sure that they needed a new bottle. Ray was right and Dave was off before he could retort.

SCENE:

Two separated lovers: finally rejoined for one last taste of bliss before the evil man returned to separate them forever. Their bodies became intertwined as he pulled her closer, their lips meeting in the middle of their embrace. Passionate kisses ensued, as he tasted her entire body again. He drank her up completely like a fine cup of wine, pausing ever so slightly to appreciate the taste of her skin. Lust made the distance seemingly unbearable and they knew they had no time to spare - the enemy of their love would be returning any minute to end their union.

REALITY:

They dug their toes in the carpet nervously as if they were former junkies with an acid-trip flashback involving ubiquitous smoldering cigarettes. They searched for words to escape the uncomfortable silence.

"Would you like some wine?" she asked.

"Yes. Where is your bathroom?" he asked.

"Over there pointing in the direction of the toilets."

She went into the kitchen and dug through “her ladles and more” drawer for a corkscrew. She already had a few bottles uncorked, but she tried to make the time she needed to spend alone with Ray as scant as possible.

"Red or white?" she yelled, attempting to penetrate the walls separating the two.

"Red or white," he said.

"What?"

"What?"

"Which one?"

"Either."

"Red?"

"Sure."

That conversation, though brief, meaningless and incredibly annoying, made Ray understand and appreciate the situation. We already knew that Sandy made her decision. If you forget, we'll recap.

Reflections are important. She found herself attracted to Ray and did have a great deal of fun with Dave. In a perfect world, she would be dating Ray and Dave would be their gay friend. However, the perfect world shuttle will not be completed until 2013 and we can only use it in hypothetical situations. We’ve already remarked about her pitiful performance in the dating arena, but she was not a fan of romantic dramas and did not wish to make her life one

Ray, on the other hand, did not enter her apartment with a

Whenever Dave asked Ray what type of wine he wanted (Red or White), he responded "Red or White," which obviously meant that he would be satisfied with either of the two. Whenever that happened, they usually burst into raucous laughter and settled into a "You're kooky, but I think I'll keep you around" kiss.

Ray and his endless parade of former boyfriends never shared a moment like that. They were more interested in his manhood and how quickly they could handle it. While that settled for love in our reckless abandon youth, it is merely a shallow, inconsequential offering later. Love is not about pumping and thumping, it is about the whole picture. Whoever wrote the traditional vows of marriage had it all figured out. "In sickness and in health." We cannot determine love at an early age, we just have to guess our best and hope that, when we're older, the one who we picked will kiss us on the forehead when we are having gas pains.

So, Ray wanted to stick with Dave because he was familiar. Normally, that line of reasoning is scoffed at because it makes it seem like Ray is just doing what's easiest. But, he figured, Dave already started to unmask his faults (less than pinpoint accuracy with the toilet bowl, unkempt toenails, horrible movie rental choices) and still embraced him with embraces. This is love and though a different part of him tingled when he kissed Sandy, Dave had control of the other 99 places.

Dave, however, was starting to lease Ray’s places on his body to the co-worker. He called Darrel  and set up a coffee date on a TBA date. He felt he understood human nature enough to know that, when two people with an attraction towards each other are left alone, sparks will fly.

While he took his time getting home, Sandy and Ray were sitting on the couch (as far away as couchingly possible) while staring at the television, which was not on. It was clear that Dave and Sandy would make the better pair of friends, so conversation was hampered on many fronts.

“So, I never found out what you do.”

“I’m an art critic,” he said dryly, trying to restrict any follow up questions about his profession. Not gonna happen.

“So, what do you think about my modest collection,” she asked, pointing to the three construction paper drawings of a beach done by a cousin.

“Fraught with sand-froid and political importance.”

He hated being an art critic because no one he encountered outside of work knew another art critic, so he they called upon him to be their personal art guru at any and all social gatherings he attended. People, who probably had no interest in their collections prior to his occupation announcement, suddenly found themselves in need of am estimation. Everyone always assumes that people in the artistic world are so enthused about their job that they wait for someone desperately for someone to for their esteemed opinion. Did Kurt Cobain seem happy all the time? He worked forty hours a week and did not want to put some free overtime in. It would be quasi-upsetting if someone asked him to do him/her a favor by discussing art because “he/she really wanted to get some culture in his/her life.” This would not be as distressing if the person involved apologized for making him put on his work overalls when he just wanted to stroll through martini-land. Individuals who thought that they were doing him a favor by letting him go on about paintings whenever he wanted infuriated him. A doctor does not dance in the aisles when a page for an emergency nose surgery takes them away from a “Lethal Weapon” movie. Carpenters are not invited to look at shingles when they go to get-togethers. Ray promised himself that he would be extremely cold to whoever had the misfortune of bringing up his work outside of business hours. He decided to answer questions about art as if he were a plumber.

“Whom is your favorite artist?”

“PVC piping.” It made sense because not many people expect a plumber to love what he does. Ray knew this because he grew up surrounded by generations of craftsmen who urged their kin to do anything other than the work they did. Although, there was a deep pleasure in creating things (even those who created shit-disappearing receptacles) and an almost religious devotion to working with ones hands, it is a toilsome job and, to them, not the ideal occupation. To them, a cold beer, pat on their wives’ ass and new releases on HBO was job amnesia and they did not want to regain their memory until the following Monday. He secretly dreamed of a career such as this and even went to the lengths of purchasing a few DIY books.

His blue-collar background made his current occupation seem alien. Nothing from his childhood would have pointed him in the direction he found himself. He did not listen to NPR with his family. He did not excel at finger painting fame at age four. There were no coffee table books (nor coffee table) on Van Gogh (nor coffee). He contracted art criticism like a disease and, recently, he wished he contracted syphilis instead.

You cut through the man who was hired to cut through the tension with a knife because he has his back turned to you. Go on and do it. He was never nice to you in chorus class.

Sandy could have apologized for bringing up his work when his tone of voice clearly implied that he was not willing to discuss it. She didn’t. Ray could have explained that he found his work a bit annoying recently and wanted to leave all memory of it at the gallery. He didn’t.

Both cursed the god of time for being so slow. The god in charge of god-human liaisons was on his lunch break and could not inform them that the god of time was sick today.

Unaware of the temperature at the house, Dave rocked to “I Believe…” by Stevie Wonder in his truck. A gay man was driving a truck? Wow. Yeah. What are there frilly curtain in the bed? No. Indeed.

He pulled into the driveway and allowed a few more seconds of passion to stir in the room. In addition to not making eye contact during conversation, Ray was also guilty of taking incredibly too long to remove his wardrobe before sex. Dave wanted to be sure because Ray was also well adept at creating plausible solutions for any guilty situation.

He snuck into the house and could not hide his dismay in finding the two of them sitting on the couch – Ray: LA, Sandy: NYC.

“Sorry I took so long.”

“Yeah you did.”

“Indeed.”

Even more dismaying was Ray’s location on the couch was directly on top of the recorder. Dave was not taking any chances, so he immediately instructed Ray and Sandy to dance.

“But I don’t have any danceable music in here,” Sandy said because it would be odd if Ray said it considering that it was not his house.

“No matter – I’ll provide the music. Dum Dum Dum Da Da Da Da Da Dum Dum Dum….”

Dave, insisting on making everything seem normal, engaged Ray in speculation for next months drink.

“I hope it will have Brandy in it,” Dave said.

“I hope you will be able to keep quiet for more than thirty-seconds,” Ray countered.

Ray, desperate to get out of there and, perhaps a bit interested in expressing his renewed faith in their union, told Dave that he received a phone call from his mother asking if he could come over and put in the air conditioner. Dave, desperate to investigate the tape, went into the kitchen to offer their apologies for leaving so quickly. He ignored a) that Ray did not have a cellular phone, b) that his mother lived hours away in Pittsburgh and, c) that it was October. Ray ignored the ignorance.

After the short ride home, Dave went into his room to check the tape while Ray sat in the lounge, making no attempts to explain his explanation for the premature departure. Ray let himself get caught up in the happiness of the situation. For the first time in his life, he was truly, madly in love and did not ruin his one chance for eternal love with a random woman. He could sit back contently in silence before Dave reentered the room to discuss what they should have for dinner for that night and, ultimately, forever. The wonderful silence of love echoed in his head. Wait, silence doesn’t have an echo. But the sound coming from Dave’s room certainly did.

So, I never found out what you do.

It always seems like, when this sort of thing happens in the movies, the spied upon immediately knows the reason for said transgression and confronts the intruder for violating his privacy. Ray’s first reaction, which does not befit his intelligence at all, was 1) “Who is Dave talking to?” 2) “Why does he sound like me?”

Upon entering the room, Ray looked around curiously, which made Dave all the more positive that Ray knew exactly what he had done. Dave loved movies and remembered how they all ended with the trust being broken and mended only by pure honesty. So he spoke the truth.

The dialogue really isn’t necessary because we all know what Dave will say because we know what Dave did. We know what Ray will be say because he is a) most importantly, outraged that his partner did not trust him b) guilt-ridden because he did cheat on him. A three-hour conversation ensues with breaks for cigarettes and reflection, but nothing has been solved. Nothing ever gets solved. This one, unfortunately, would not make past the Hollywood cutting floor in its current incarnation.

Ray left the house, returning a week later to pack up his belongings at a time that was convenient for him when he was sure that Dave would not be there. He moved to another state without leaving a forwarding address to either Dave or Sandy, so they did not hear that he died a month later. It was just a freak accident that happened to happen to one of the story’s central characters. While any death is a sad occasion, he started a new relationship at the time of his death and felt genuinely happy. Dave went on to lead a normal life, except for being plagued by his one quirk. Every now and then, he would retire to his room to play back the tape one more time to find evidence that Ray actually did cheat on him. Not that he wanted Ray back (or could). Rather, he was just one of those egotistical pricks that always had to be right. Sandy and Dave lost touch eventually, but he thought that she lived in Arizona.

If it were possible to ask all three if the situation was worth it, they would all unanimously agree “yes.” For as hard as it is to find a good boyfriend, heterosexual man or tape recorder, it is a thousand times harder to find a good loaf of bread.

 

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