This is a story about how my world got all... no, I'm kidding. This is a story about two men living in a city. One is a roommate, a financial planner, a runner, and overall well organized and quiet. The other is a brother, a dog trainer, a dancer, and sometimes overwhelming to some. Do I have a preference between these two types of men? Not necessarily.
The brother certainly does.
The roommate isn't sure.
What he is sure about is the jealousy he feels for the brother's openness. Though he doesn't think there's much he can do about that. It's just who he is.
Paul rested his hand on the blender lid. In the next room, his roommate egged her brother on for more gossip. Sticking within the same gaggle of friends, they were always swapping stories. Now if anyone were to suddenly walk around the corner, he would jump into action like he had been 'just about to hit the start button'. Instead, he was left to eavesdrop in tense peace. Of course, it was about a guy. It was always about a guy. Danny had gone on a date with a friend of a friend and it had not ended how that once removed pal would have liked. The various successes and failures of the date were humorous to Danny but bittersweet to Paul.
Danny was a dear friend that he was glad to see dating and attempting to find a partner. It just wasn't fair how easy it was for Danny to find these said dates.
In my opinion, Paul would probably end up with quite a bit more dates than Danny if he were just a bit more open.
Linda urged him to return to the date's comment on Linda's ex, also by chance in this group of friends. Paul elected for him to talk about the date. And seeing how it was silent, she won. The conversations went back to her pathetic nemesis.
So, on the blender went.
The conversation wasn't even enough to hold the storyteller's attention and he rounded the corner as the blade whirled down to a stop.
To this point, it doesn't even seem like there's a point to remain on this story.
Till we look at Paul.
The men exchanged a casual hello in typical fashion. A smile and nod. Danny grabbed the fridge door unaware of the hidden gaze. It was charming how subtle Paul could keep his glances. To be fair, it was hard for a lot of guys not to take at least a second look towards Danny. He was good looking no doubt, but it was the way he always seemed to be smiling. His energy was contagious and everyone yearned to have his positivity rub off on them.
Standing up, his eyes locked on to Paul's. Who quickly hid the glop of shake that had spilled.
"Going for a run?" Danny asked, cracking open the soda. The green eyes wide as they shifted over Paul's face and down over the body that leaned back to wipe the counter off.
Paul smiled in return, a bit less radiant. "In a little while." The shake was too much for the paper towel, so the remainder was left still piled on the counter and smothered in the towel. Though casually pushed back a few inches.
"How far are you going to go today?" The sugary beverage's irony was not lost on the brother and he had to smile as he took a sip.
"Not far, I did a few miles yesterday. I really just need to stretch, get away from the computer for a bit. Ya know?"
It was uncommon for people to ask so many questions of Paul's life. But it wasn't uncommon for Danny. Even after the one-word answers, he kept asking, and eventually, they had grown longer. It wasn't out of rudeness that they had started so short. Paul had never wanted to keep the beaming fellow from whatever was making him so enthused and on his feet. It had just seemed polite to give him a quick answer and let him be on his way. Besides, they weren't particularly interesting words anyway. A "sure", "Colorado", or "beer" for example. Danny always hovered though, waiting for more.
Paul had seen it with anyone else Linda had brought over. It was a skill Danny possessed to make everyone and anyone feel welcome and special. Even for Paul, in his own home. Technically Linda was just subletting the spare room during the remaining 11 months on his lease. The two siblings had already brought much more warmth in than Paul or the former occupant had.
"Yeah, yeah, of course. I heard a story on the news that reminded me of you."
"Oh?" Paul leaned against the counter, protecting the evidence of his slip and downing the part he did catch as quickly as he could. Least anyone notice it was a bit lacking.
"Yeah, some guy got charged with embezzlement." Paul's eyes pinched slightly, forcing Danny on. "Well, it was some financial hoopla. I don't know Banes or something."
"Baits? He did investing, that's not even close to what I do."
Some people take the mistake as sweet, even the slightest connection brought Paul into Danny's mind. Others would find it offensive that he might not have actually been paying attention to those answers.
Paul was the first.
"It's back on!" Linda yelled from the living room.
"Close enough though, right? Anyway, don't get arrested." The green eyes left him to clean up his mess. Which lead to the notice of a now full trash bin and a walk outside.
The air was always a welcome bath of reality. Running at night through the apartment complexes left him in a serenity unlike any other. Without headphones or any distractions, he could just let his mind wander. Twisting through clusters of homes, the silence was betrayed by the flashes of lights on blinds or shadows against curtains. The development was alive with people. Hushed and tucked away inside their own worlds, visible to only those that looked. While outside their drawn covers, people in spandex, old basketball shorts, or sweatpants passed by each other in shared peace.
Even the walk to the dumpster was able to crack open that mental space enough to fix a client's problem he had struggled with hours before. The sticky surface of the cement remained from last week and with each step, his flip-flops thudded into his soles. The loudness of it caught a passing alley cat and they briefly watched each other with mutual understanding the one wasn't going to come any closer to the other.
On the last two giant steps up to his landing, Paul decided on losing the sweatshirt before the run. A normally irritating chore like taking the trash out seemed to turn out well if you looked at it right.
"Hah, old roommate? I'm was his boyfriend." Three months ago that voice would have sent flutters through his stomach, now those flutters only soured it up. Jogging up the stairs had been a bad idea, the thud of his foot on the top told the inhabitants of the open door he was back and all three turned to see a shrunken Paul return.
"Hey," Chad spoke first, leaning on the door frame and angling his body to fill up the majority of the opening. A few months ago he would have not only called the voice charming but his size impressive. Now next to Danny, Chad was only a normal guy. Next, to someone like 5'2" Susie still in Denver, he was huge.
"Hello," Paul couldn't keep his eyes on the man and glanced between the brother positioning himself closer to Chad and the sister being pushed back. They all held the same amount of joy.
"You never dropped off my camera." Chad got straight to the point. He used to like that.
"It's not yours." Sadly, that point was usually wrong.
"It absolutely is. You bought the camera, but it was only because I got the gas, hotel, and food for that trip." Also wrong. "So it would have been mine." The eyes he had scanned before for a hint of the situation were now fully telling him what it was. They wanted this man out of the apartment and out of this awkward situation.
"Fine, just let me get it." He hadn't really used the camera, but you know how it goes. There had been the principle involved. Chad gave just enough space to force Paul to push along his side and the door jam. The other two gave him several feet. 'Let me get it' was supposed to insinuate wait by the door. Chad never got those clues and followed to the bedroom. Their old bedroom.
It had seemed like a big leap for Paul that they move in together. Not only was it just 5 months into their relationship but only 7 months into Paul living in a new city as someone who dates men. The first 2 months were unsuccessful in that Paul never had the nerve to approach a guy. He had been raised it was insulting to assume that of anyone. And so assuming the opposite, all men were off limits. The only way he was going to get a boyfriend was if someone approached him. If someone were able to take the reins and lead the way.
In came Chad.
Now quite literally, his body blocked the open doorway again, shutting them both in the once intimate room.
"Thanks," Chad mumbled, taking the camera Paul offered. "Glad you kept better care of this than you did for the tablet."
A small groan escaped Paul's lips as his eyes subconsciously rolled. "That wasn't my fault," he offered for the fourth time.
"I had told you that you really needed to stop reading it before going to bed."
There had been fights like this before, simple misunderstandings or varied points of view blown out of proportion, as emotions tend to do. I would like to say I would never find myself in this sort of situation with that sort of man. But I was there in the beginning, I know the way Chad's compliments made Paul feel. The way he felt supported at every mention of a possible dream or ambition. He still believed Chad had really wanted to help him do anything and everything he set his mind to. It was just the way with which he did it.
"Yeah," Paul murmured, looking down to show the conversation was over. The taller man's shoulders remained straight as he loomed over his ex, his jaw growing tighter. This was a typical sign, his eyes were randomly skimming over Paul's face as he thought over his next attack.
"You know...," he started.
Chad turned a full 180 degrees, blocking Paul from immediately seeing Danny.
"Sorry to interrupt, but I still need a ride home." It was a lifeline, out of pity or just common sense it wasn't sure, but Paul took it without question.
"Yeah, of course."
Chad stepped away and walked past Danny, watching him all the while. He was just at Danny's height, and only an inch taller than Paul himself. Paul made an attempt to walk Chad out, but Danny stepped in the way, splitting them up.
Outside, the lock snapped behind them as Linda announced to Chad just how she felt about him. Following suit, Danny made a beeline for the car.
Sure, I almost wanted to see Paul stand up to Chad, yell back again like he always had, even if it had been in vain. But a silent last glance before sliding in behind the wheel was best. Chad would never change, or if he did, Paul wouldn't be there to see it.
The engine was only turned on by habit. The car didn't move, the driver frozen with his two hands on the wheel, watching the other car crawl away.
"Thanks," he said. The lively friend didn't respond. He didn't give a normal smile or even offer a question of concern. Instead, they simply walked back to the apartment, assured Linda, and went their separate ways.
Sliding open the drawer, Paul pushed through the dozens of socks for a pair. Not a particular pair, his running socks were all the same, but waiting for the time it seemed okay to grab one.
"Hey," was repeated at the door. Leaning on the frame was an equally tall man, yet significantly less threatening. Paul rose instead of shrunk and grabbed a pair of socks.
"Wanna talk about it?" Danny offered.
"No." Beginning to pull the socks on, he glanced up, "Not right now." It wasn't the time for answers. It was the time for questions.
The run took him through his normal path, lead not by his legs, but his mind. Why couldn't he be like Danny? Why couldn't he talk about what he wanted, who he wanted? What would really happen if he opened up to all his friends and let them do the whole 'I know a guy you should meet' thing? Why did he have to stick around and wait for another Chad to hit on him? Why couldn't he be the initiator?
Taking the opposite turn before his house he kept going for two blocks till he slowed to a manageable walk to where he could wiggle his phone from the running case on his arm.
It was the first time he had ever called this number.
"Hey," he started, for the third time that hour.
"Hey, are you home?" Paul's voice was rushed as he continued to recover from the run.
"Yeah, why?" Danny's voice was slightly bemused. His curtain opened to reveal the only man outside, holding a phone to his ear and looking up.
"Want to get some ice cream?" The tiny man pointed down the street to the small building at the end. Between you and me, after the embarrassment of having your secret blown out into the open and your ex escorted away from you, this was nothing. But Paul considered it a victory none the less. And would have noticed the sweat the simple question had caused had he not been running and frankly gross.
And that was it.
I said this was a story about two men. Not about two men falling in love. The brother still knows his type, whether or not that type is Paul is irrelevant.
The roommate still does not know his, but now he's willing to find out and admit he has a choice.