I dialed Robbie’s number the first evening
I got home as soon as I could excuse myself from my mother’s dotage. I loved her but she doted on me--an
undeserving me, I kept thinking. Robbie’s
answering machine picked up. Where was he? Why wasn’t he waiting for my call? I dialed again fifteen minutes later. It finally dawned on me that while I knew there
was a three-hour time-zone difference, I was adding three hours instead of
subtracting them. I was calling him at
4 p.m., his time, before he even got home from work instead of 7 p.m. Doh! I felt like a jilted lover before I even
had a chance of being jilted. How in
hell’s name was I going to keep control of the situation if I was acting like a
I waited till 10 p.m., Eastern, then
called. Robbie picked the phone up.
“Hi,” I said.
“How are you?”
“Fine. How was your trip?”
“Long, but uneventful. How was your day?”
“Same old. Same old. I had an old lady who had no idea how much
money she had. I could have stolen her
blind. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t
honest. How was your day?”
“Okay. I slept till noon, got bored around the house, called you at 4 in
the afternoon, your time, and thought you were avoiding me, then called you
again when I realized that there were such things as time zones.”
“Look, I’d like to talk more, but
I’ve got to make dinner for Alec.”
Well, that was romantic, I
thought. Absence hadn’t made the heart
grow fond enough, I guess, or the absence wasn’t long enough.
The next few calls were just about
as eventful as the first, and I had to initiate them. I was getting the feeling that distance was creating a separation
that could not be bridged. At this
rate, it was only a matter of time before I would just quit dialing. Actually, the time was going to be sooner
rather than later. Finally, a week
later I couldn’t muster enough energy to call, so I lay on my bed, my hands
behind my head, staring at the ceiling I had looked at every night for 18 years
of my life. I just lay there, and I
drifted into a fitful sleep.
The next day was a work day, and I
bent my nose to the grindstone to get everything set for the company’s move to
Seattle. I didn’t have much time to
think about anything but endless details.
Me? A detail man? I was surprising myself.
Dinner with Mom was quiet and
pleasant. She saw how tired I looked
and suggested I just go to bed. I lay
on top of my covers again and just stared at the ceiling, and I fell into a
“Jake?” I heard my mother’s voice calling from downstairs, breaking into
whatever dream I had. “Jake! Telephone.”
“I’ve got it, Mom.” I picked up the extension beside my
“Hello.” It was Robbie. I heard
the phone downstairs being hung up. I
waited for Robbie to say something.
“Er, I missed your call last night.”
‘Well, why didn’t you call?’ I said to myself. I tried to control the annoyance I
felt. “I guess I must have fallen
There was silence on the line. “Jake, I didn’t realize how much I missed
your voice until you didn’t call. I
know we didn’t talk about much of interest, but I just liked to hear your
voice. You could have been reading from
the telephone book, as far as I was concerned, and I would have enjoyed it.”
“I missed your voice, too. But our
conversations haven’t been exactly scintillating.”
“I’m sorry. This is all so much like a 14-year-old
calling his girlfriend; there’s no 8th grade football captain and
the cheerleaders to gossip about for hours on end.
“Let me start over. So, how was your day?”
I spent the next half hour telling
him all the small details of my day—the meeting with Drew, figuring out how to
break the news to the staff, finishing up arrangements with the Seattle commercial
real-estate broker. He told me about
the petty politics of his office. By
the time all that was finished, it had been an hour—as if we had been sitting
in his living room with glasses of wine in our hands. It felt so much more normal, and the ties between us began to rebuild
The next few days were similar: a much more personal and familiar tone to
our minutes on the phone, and I began to close off with “I love you.” It was a few days later that Robbie began to
reply, “I love you, too,” and I knew then that we had closed another gap
I began to call him in the
morning—early his time. He called me
his erotic snooze alarm. We talked for
a few minutes, and then I let him get ready for work, envisioning the bathroom
towels making love to him.
I called him again that
evening. “I love you. I miss you,” I said
“For Christ’s sake, I talked to you
“Half a day is the first stage of
eternity.” How’s that for corny?
“Jake, I can’t believe how corny that
“I can. I already said that to myself.”
I heard a snicker on the other end
of the line. Then: “How was your day?”
“Okay. I met this cute guy from Maine, applying for a job.”
“If I was gay, that would bother
“But you are gay.”
“Yes, you. I’ll show you.” I paused
for effect, then hummed some Bolero. “Now,
visualize my hand drifting through the soft black hairs of your chest.”
There was a pause. “But my shirt is buttoned.”
“Unbutton it, killjoy.”
The phone went silent for a few
minutes, as I heard the rustle of clothes on Robbie’s end of the line.”
“Now, remove your shirt entirely,” I
commanded. There was some quiet
swishing of clothes at the other end.
Robbie came back on the line. “Now, remove your undershirt.”
“Okay.” I could hear more swish of clothing being removed.
“Now visualize my hand drifting
through the soft black hairs of your chest.”
“I am, but I see you fully clothed.” Amazing.
He didn’t even have a video phone.
I set the receiver down and pulled
my shirt over my head. “Okay, that
problem’s fixed. Now, prop the phone up
on my pillow so you can use both hands.”
I realize I had said ‘my pillow.’
“Before I do that I want my turn,”
Robbie interrupted. “You prop your
phone up. Now, I want you to count the
hairs on your left nipple.” I heard a
snicker in the telephone receiver.
“The other nipple.”
“Get a life, Robbie.”
“Now, let your hand trail down to
your belly button.”
“Okay. You do the same.”
“Now lower. Twirl your fingers in your curls. Don’t touch your erection.”
“How do you know I have an
erection?” I asked.
“You love me, don’t you?”
“And you can’t touch yours, either.”
“How do you know I have an erection?”
“You’re horny. You told me you’re always horny.”
“I don’t love you?”
“Well, do you?”
“Yes.” His answer was music to me.
“Now wrap your hand around my
erection,” I said. “Do you still love
Silence on the other end of the
phone. “That’s not a fair question in
“Washington or excitement?”
“Both,” I said. “Do you have your lube?”
“Squirt some all around me.”
I heard a shuffle and a click on the
“On my balls, too.” I continued. “Feel the softness.”
“Mmmm. I want you to do the same for me.”
I reached into my shaving kit and
got the K-Y jelly, put a large dab on my palm and rubbed it all over my
erection and my..er..his balls. I
groaned with pleasure.
“Mmm,” I said.
“Okay, now, do as I do. Get some lube on the middle finger of your
left hand. Rub it down the back of my
balls and across my perineum. Just the
right pressure, now.”
“With your right hand, start stroking
“Kiss me,” Robbie said.
“I’ve got my tongue in your mouth.”
“I’m rubbing my tongue against
yours, and then I’m letting it slide across your lips, left to right and back
“The feeling is electric in my
“Squeeze me harder, now, and pick up
“I can’t believe how good you feel,
Jake. Your hand has this wonderful
grip—hard and soft at the same time. Oh
“Stroke me! Stroke me!
More! Faster! I’m getting to that point where I can’t turn
back. I can’t turn back. I’m coming.
I’m coming. Oh, God! Oh, God!”
“Keep pressing against me. Harder.
Harder. Pull me into you. Yes!
There was panting at two ends of the
“Hold me gently, Jake.”
“Hold me gently, too, Robbie.”
We both burst into laughter.
“I love you.”
“Love you, too.”
The line went dead.
* * * * *
The two months in Boston were
exhausting, with getting the rest of our move planned. We had announced the move a few weeks
earlier. We told everybody about the
relocation allowances we were giving out—substantial, if I say so myself—and
asked them to make a commitment. The
staff reaction was mixed, at best. Some
showed elation, probably at going someplace new or having an excuse to leave
their girlfriends or boyfriends or mothers and fathers. Others looked seriously dejected; maybe,
they had strong ties to family in the region, or maybe they were reluctant to
change. At the end of it all, about two
thirds of the staff elected to go with us; the rest were given a generous
severance package and were allowed time off to seek new employment in
Those moving were given airplane
tickets and a week’s hotel accommodations to check out housing in Seattle. I was not happy to see that Dave decided to stay
in Boston, and I told him so, even though his presence in Seattle might be a
bit personally discomfiting. He smiled
at me, shyly. I offered to point out
the parts of Seattle he was likely to enjoy and encouraged him to fly out and
take a look. But he shook his head and
said he was going to stay put.
Everything necessary for the move was
in motion. It was time to leave. I packed up my office, labeled the boxes,
took one last look around and went home.
At nine I dialed Robbie. “I’ve finished what I needed to do in
Boston, so I’m heading west. I’m
driving.” The moment of truth had come. I could feel the tension in the silence across
the telephone wires. I visualized
Robbie’s pacing—to the length of the phone cord and back. He always paced when he had to make a
decision. I knew the pressure was on.
I heard a sigh. “Come back here, Jake. Come home.”
There was another pause. “Absolutely.”
It didn’t sound very ‘absolutely,’ but
I’d take his word at face value.
“When do you leave, Jake?”
“I’ve missed you. I wasn’t sure that I would, but I have. I’m nervous and, maybe, I’m a bit scared
about…us…about us living together. But
I love you, Jake, and I want you here.”
“I love you, too.” I could feel my heart warming. “I need to pack, Robbie. Abstinence tonight, okay.”
I sat on the bed, looking around my
room. I really didn’t have a lot to
show for 33 years of life: what I had
brought from Jakarta, a fair number of books, some tapes and records, some things tacked to the walls, a
few trophies, some winter clothes that I didn’t need in Jakarta but might need
in Seattle. I had a good bicycle in the
garage that I would carry on the back of the car as well as a few weights that
I could tuck into the trunk.
I climbed up into the attic to get
some empty boxes, and I began to pack.
Two hours later, I was almost done, and there was a pile of boxes near
the door to my room.
Mom looked in on me a few times,
sadness on her face. Once, she came up
and put her hands on my shoulders as I was leaning over, emptying the bottom
shelf of my bookcase. She bent over and
kissed me on the cheek, then quietly got up and left me to my packing. I had met the commitment to my father and I
felt my mother would be okay on her own, but leaving was still hard.
There was something more final about
this packing than any other I had done.
Maybe it was because I was packing my entire book collection for the
first time. Maybe my books had been the
anchor to Boston, and as I put them in the boxes, it was as if each book was a
link removed from an anchor’s chain. I
was more profoundly saddened by my packing than even by my father’s death. For me, there is something about departures
that always brings tears to my eyes and a constriction in my throat. I knew that telling my mother goodbye in the
morning would be as hard as anything I had ever done.
After a fitful sleep, I woke early
and began to pack up my Honda Civic. I
was all done by 8:00. I walked into the
kitchen, where Mom had made me a breakfast of waffles with Vermont maple syrup,
bacon, fresh fruit and coffee. We sat
across from each other in silence. We
both wanted to say something but no words came, because all the words and tears
inside us would have come pouring out if we had.
We finished. I picked up my dishes and utensils and took
them to the sink. Mom came up behind me
and circled her arms around my waist. I
turned around and hugged her tightly.
“Goodbye, Mom. Thanks for…tolerating me.”
“I’ll tolerate you anytime you want,
Jakey.” We walked to the car. I opened the door and stood by it. She kissed me on the cheek and stuffed some
money into my shirt pocket.
“Mom, please, I don’t need this,” I
said as I pulled the money out of the pocket.
But she put her hand on top of mine and slid it back to where I’d found
it. Mom was always slipping money into
“Take it. Splurge. Use it for the
trip or for something in Seattle. Take
There was no way I could
refuse. So I kissed her and said: “I’ll use it to come home.” My eyes glistened as did hers as I slid into
the driver’s seat, closed the door and rolled down the window and took her hand
for one last touch. Then, I let go,
turned on the engine, put the car in gear and started off, giving one final
I wound through the streets of
Newton and got onto the turnpike to start the long journey west. It was I-90. It started in Boston and would end in Seattle if I didn’t leave
it. I turned the radio on, found some
good music and just let my thoughts drift as I drove on. I had no idea how long the trip would take
nor how I would pace it, but the attraction was in Seattle, and I couldn’t stop
driving. I wasn’t in a hurry, really,
but I was eager, and I found I drove 18 hours that first day, with stops for
meals and a late-night check-in at some motel in Illinois.
I-90, however, got boring somewhere
in South Dakota, after a full second day of driving, and the radio pickings got
slimmer and slimmer. In the morning, I
decided to dodge south into Wyoming, into Yellowstone and the Grand
Tetons. I wasn’t planning to stop for
long, but the scenery would be better and would keep me awake.
My last night on the road was going
to be in southern Idaho, a desolate place after leaving the Tetons, but I made
the mistake of calling Robbie just before stopping for the night to tell him
where I was. His voice was so
welcome. After I told him I loved him and
would see him the next evening and after he told me he loved me back, I decided
not to stop, but to drive all night. I
stopped at a convenience market and filled my thermos with coffee, then filled
an extra-large cup to drink right then.
I loaded up with junk food—doughnuts and other pastries, some chips,
some candy bars.
I kicked the speed of my Honda up
over 90 miles an hour, keeping a sharp eye out for the state patrol, turned on
the night radio, opened the window and just drove like a bat out of hell. The radio reception was much better. I picked up all kinds of stations—all the
way from Kansas to Mexico to California—and I sang along with all the songs
that I knew at the top of my lungs. At
the speed I was driving, the miles clicked by, and with a few short stops for
coffee and a leak, I neared Seattle—at nearly 3:00 in the morning.
I drove towards Robbie’s, not
waiting at times till the stoplights turned green, and arrived at his
door. I locked the Civic and ran up the
steps and rang the doorbell. My
erection bloomed in my pants. Robbie
opened the door with an apprehensive look on his face, and then saw me, relaxed
and smiled, and we kissed. That was all
I needed. I lifted him into my arms,
closed the door with the back of my shoe and carried him up the stairs.
I dumped him on his bed, told him I
was going to take a 30-second shower and disappeared into the bathroom. It is possible to take a 30-second shower,
believe me, especially when you don’t have to dress afterwards—or to dry
Robbie lay on the bed, the sheet
pulled up to his waist, or, as it happened, over the protuberance between his
waist and his feet. I pulled the sheet
back and climbed on top of him, burying my face into his.
“You didn’t tell me that not drying
was part of your 30-second promise,” he said.
Robbie crawled from under me and out
of the bed and came back with a towel.
He wrapped it around my head and dried my hair, then lay back down and
scooted under me.
“You were dripping,” he said. “The rest of you I can handle, but your
hair…it was like a mop just out of the bucket.”
“I’ve been dripping ever since Idaho
“Not in the same way.” Robbie laughed. Our cocks lay nested together for the first time in two months,
and our lips joined in the same spirit of togetherness.
The first time was rough and tumble
and short, as the expectations that had built up in the two months apart drove desire
through our bodies. The second time,
though, was sweet and long and mostly oral, as we began the new phase of our
lives in a less frenetic style. At the
end, we lay entwined—me, at least, in total contentment and, I think, Robbie,
too—whispering sweet things to each other.
I wish it could have stayed that way.
To be continued…
2007. Comments are welcome at vwl1999
Thanks to Sharon for editing!