Latest gay male story: Mikey and the Chickadee – Chapter 17
Nostalgic feelings came easily to me these days, brought on by encounters with everyday minutia like the sun-dried black leather of my mom’s rumbly old Legend, which crackled underneath me as I shifted my weight in the back seat. I surmised that like any other car, this Acura must have rolled paint-glittering-new off a lot once, but that was before I was around, and long before my mom owned it. It was the first car I ever drove, and because bus transit to my high school had been impractical, I shared it with her for a couple years before leaving for college.
“Twist your keys up so they don’t jingle like that,” she said to my dad as he steered onto the highway. When he couldn’t manage it she reached over and did it for him. She moved halfway around in her seat and said, “Wyatt, thanks for making time for us. I know you must have a lot to do before you leave.”
“Not that much,” I said.
“Still. It’s nice.”
“I got the money for the moving van credited to my stipend,” I told my dad, “so we can just use the truck.”
“Great,” he said. “I’m glad that worked out.”
“When is your last day of work in the city?” my mom asked.
“Next Wednesday.” I paused. “Can Mikey come to dinner next week?”
“That’s your new friend, right?” she asked. “Of course he can come.”
I watched as she exchanged a look with my dad; they were at it again, ever-superseding, assuming to know exactly what was going on. I hadn’t seen it in a while, actually. Back when I lived at home, the condescending pageantry of it all would have left me fuming, but now I just laughed it off inside my head. Whatever conjecture they had assembled probably wasn’t far off.
“Just so you know,” I added after a pause, “his parents passed away a few years ago.” My decision to bring it up beforehand was policed by a wish to prevent rehashing the brief awkwardness we had slogged through with Marie and Sloan. With this in mind I had also bothered to text Stephanie about it the day before, somewhat out of the blue.
“Oh no,” my mom said. “That’s terrible.” She kept silent for another moment as this new, unfathomable detail sank in.
“Sorry to hear that, bud,” said my dad.
“Don’t worry,” she said, making up her mind. “We’ll just leave the subject alone.”
Awhile later I sat facing my parents in an old booth near the front of a vietnamese restaurant. We had been here many times; my dad maintained a rapport with the owner who, as a ritual, would bring around the most recent pictures of his young children each time we visited.
To rid them of imaginary splinters, my mom rubbed her disposable chopsticks against one another as we waited for our food. “So,” she said, “should we treat Mikey just as we would any of your other friends? Or is he more than just a friend?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “You can treat him however you want.”
“Do you think you guys will stay in contact after you move?”
“I don’t know,” I said again. I wanted to leave it at that, but worried she would think I was being short with her, which I was not. I lifted my head a little and added, “I hope so.”
Dinner carried on without incident and my parents dropped me off after dark. I texted Mikey to let him know I would be over.
“See you soon,” he replied.
I packed a bag to sustain me for the better part of the week. I wasn’t sure where I would end up. The day before we had discussed spending multiple nights at his place in order to make the most of my time left in the city. We would commute together each day into work. Mikey said nothing about the swollen state of my duffel and garment-bag as I entered, nor did he question the worn gray Toms I carried in my left hand, to replace my work shoes in the evenings should the weather remain warm and dry.
“I have to go back to Boise,” he told me late in the evening, as we lay in bed.
“The 30th. That’s after you move, right?”
“The day after.”
“That’s what I thought. I just bought the tickets tonight after talking it over with Sophie. They’re looking to be our biggest client, so they need some special attention.”
“That makes sense,” I said.
Over the next couple of days, warm weather made its tentative home throughout the area, not as much in the mild gusts that swept through busy downtown trenches, but especially in the sprawling city park north of Mikey’s neighborhood, and of course, along the balmy trail atop the levee. We visited these places daily, and I did not spend a single night away from his home. We showered together each night before bed, ate breakfast early in the morning, then left in his car for work. “It makes it feel like our own private world,” he had told me on Monday morning, as if to justify his sudden and thorough abandonment the bus. Every morning he would ask if I wanted to drive, convinced that I would take up the standard transmission without drama. By Wednesday I opened myself to negotiation, suggesting we try the lonely farm roads east of Corbin. I told him I needed a few days to mentally prepare. He laughed, and then when he saw that I was serious, said we could go early the following week.
With surprising ease, as I no longer stayed with him under the constant clause of my next departure, his apartment came to feel like a second home. I sat beside him at his desk and watched him sketch a rather ornamental version of our beach and the surrounding landscape. The clouds moved in at night and held in a small amount of the day’s warmth, so we stepped out onto his tiny balcony and stood at the rail, balancing a piping-hot box of pizza on the corner, laughing and lunging for it as it threatened to fall. A group of kids passed by-probably students at the nearby high school-and one yelled up, asking if we could spare any weed. (“I wouldn’t waste it on you,” Mikey shouted down cheerfully, eliciting the finger from more than one of them.)
On Thursday night we had intercourse again, after I had accompanied him to his gym on a guest voucher. I did not ask Mikey if he was ready for me to put myself inside of him. I knew he wasn’t. But each of us was more than eager to relive the night after the club. Again, I refrained from cautioning him to begin slowly. The pain was more acute this time, due probably to my sobriety, but I preferred it this way. The room was brighter; Mikey saw my face plainly in the bedside lamplight and came to know the nuances in each wince and grit of my teeth. Although I fought hard and won against the threat of returning tears, he had already made up his mind that I should straddle him from on top, so that I could control the rate of his intrusion. It was just as well, as the pleasure it brought him was clear each time I would lower my body down on him, lift it slowly, then sink down again. He put up his own battle against his climax and fought well, but in the end I wouldn’t back down and he surrendered himself deep inside me. I came immediately after him, straight up his stomach and chest to his neck.
For most of the week, Mikey and I did not talk much about our work. To some extent we both may have felt that it only disrupted the precious, numbered days we had left together-at least I felt this way. Still, by Friday morning, after an impromptu return to the bus, Mikey did not try to hide his excitement at the awaiting events precipitated from a recent breakthrough, which he described to me presently over a flurry of hand gestures.
“It will totally change our approach to their restructuring,” he said. “Our time investment is cut in half. It’s incredible. We’ve reduced our package cost with them, but I mean, we were already undercutting whoever they’re cross-shopping us with. They told us that from the beginning.” He sat back and folded his arms. “The best part is, we can adapt the method to some of our other clients’ systems. Everybody wins. I fucking live for this stuff.”
I grinned, reached out and rocked him back and forth. “I love seeing you like this. And I’m so glad your company is doing well.”
He turned to me. “It’s you. You’re part of this.”
“Sorry,” he continued, “I mean, without you, I’d be sliding back toward workaholic stuff. I can feel it. You’ve helped show me I can live outside of work. And now I’m seeing that good things just keep happening. The company evolves, kind of in spite of me. I put my best foot forward as a leader, do my time, then leave it at work just like everyone else. I go home and I live separately.”
“It’s not me,” I told him. “You cut back on work before you ever met me.”
“That’s true. But it wouldn’t have lasted. I know how I am.”
“You also have drawing to keep you occupied,” I said. “And what about your friend in Seattle?”
“He’s just a guy I ran track with in high school. He’s one of those people from your past, where all you can talk about is the way things used to be…what used to happen. And I hate doing that.”
I smiled a little. “I just think when I’m not around anymore, you’ll find something else to fill your time, other than work.”
“I guess I hope you’re right. But you’re not, like, a thing, okay? That’s the difference. You’re a person, not an activity.”
“I know, I know. Alright…what about someone else then?”
He closed his eyes. “Please don’t say that.”
I touched him on the leg. “I’m sorry, Mikey. I don’t mean it like that.” I wasn’t sure what I had meant.
“Do you really think of yourself that way? Like someone could just replace you?”
I didn’t know how to answer him. He sighed and fell silent for a minute. I tried to read him during this time. His face flooded not with agitation, just sadness.
“No. I’m sorry,” he said finally. “I know you didn’t mean anything by it, Chickadee. I know you’re just trying to reassure me. It’s not your problem anyway. It’s mine.”
I told him it wasn’t his problem, or that maybe it was both of ours. He said it was shaping up to be a beautiful day, and that we didn’t need to talk about it anymore.
I worked relentlessly over the course of the day, typical me, in the face of actual issues to deal with. A small part of me wanted to cycle through them in some corner of my mind, like a background process running on a phone, allowing me to continue my external functions uninterrupted. And maybe I had unwittingly done so; unexpectedly, I came up with something definitive to say to Mikey on the ride home.
I turned to face him, once seated on the worn, hard seat next to his. “I don’t like my job. I don’t like the career path I’ve chosen.”
He raised his eyebrows. “That sounds like something we should talk about.”
“It is,” I insisted. “The way you talk about your work…I mean, you light up, like it’s the only thing you could possibly be doing. I can’t relate to that. I don’t feel that way at all. I’ve never felt like that, and I’m pretty sure I never will.”
He looked at me, then past me, through the windows on the other side of the bus. “Sometimes I think I got lucky. Most people probably feel pretty lukewarm about their job. I’m not saying that’s right. It just seems like it’s a common feeling.”
“I don’t think you’re wrong about that,” I said. I wondered if my feelings toward my job fell in categorically with the people he described-people like my own parents, working their fingers to the bone in positions of which nobody in their right mind would be envious. How many times had they felt the way I did? Was theirs even the same feeling? It must have been.
“Maybe I’ll give it a little more thought,” I told him.
He nodded and I cast my doubts temporarily aside. We laughed and joked our way through the rest of the ride. On the walk back to his apartment I asked him how his day at work had panned out.
He explained that a new contract had been presented to and signed by the client, establishing a shorter timeline for the project. “You should’ve seen it, Chickadee. They were ecstatic.”
I suspected that he dialed back his excitement on the surface to some degree, perhaps in deference to our earlier discussion. I wished he wouldn’t, and could sense it continuing to bubble underneath his casual stride.
“My parents also do jobs they don’t like,” I determined awhile later, seated on his couch, staring blankly at the wall.
He sat next to me with his feet up on the coffee table. “I don’t think that should be a factor, though. They’ve led different lives than you have.”
That was certainly true. I sighed and said, “It’s almost like my feelings are worse than lukewarm, if I’m honest with myself. I’m really good at convincing myself that I’m into something. But it’s like…part of me will always know the difference between that and what comes naturally, you know? The idea of doing this for the rest of my life or, fuck, maybe just another few years-it isn’t playing through in my mind. It doesn’t feel right. Something about it just seems wrong.”
He paused for a moment. “If you don’t feel like the job is worth moving for, then you shouldn’t do it.”
I didn’t know what to say. Even the notion of discussing it terrified me.
“I hope I’m not letting my own feelings into this,” he continued. “I’m trying to be objective. That’s just how I see it. Objectively, at least.”
“I appreciate that,” I said in a very quiet voice. “And part of me…” I trailed off momentarily, quivering little, then drew in a breath. “Part of me is worried that you’re right.”
I knew suddenly that I was going to cry. It would be brief and contained, but nonetheless it rushed, unyielding, to the surface. I leaned myself against him, making it clear what was happening. Already I shriveled with embarrassment.
“Hey.” He set his feet down to the floor and put his arms around me. “Hold on, hold on,” he said calmly, “you’re okay.” He held my head against his chest, running his hand over my hair. “You’re okay,” he said again. “Part-of-me-this, part-of-me-that. Man, you’ve got a lot of parts, you know that?”
I managed to laugh a little, still shuddering against him. “You don’t even know.”
“It’s okay,” he said. “Look, you don’t have to make up your mind yet. You still have time.”
I sat up and groaned, holding my head in my hands. “I’m so tired of not knowing what the hell is going on. I feel like I’m going crazy. Jesus, I’m the last person who should be making this decision, really. Can’t you just decide for me?”
He laughed. “No. But if what you told me earlier-how you feel about your job-is true, then I can give you my objective opinion, which I did.”
“I know. It’s totally valid.”
“So,” he began slowly, after a pause, “is that really how you feel?”
I sat back and composed myself. “I think so.”
One of Mikey’s strongest assets, which I had gradually come to know, was his uncanny ability to shift the mood toward something lighter. He reached out, placed his thumb at the corner of my eye and wiped away the wet glaze from my skin. “You need good food,” he said, and announced that he was taking me out. We were on our way out the door just a short time later. I slipped one shoe on and reached for the second, but he snatched it up and held it to his chest.
“Come and get it,” he said.
I swore at him and wrestled him to the floor.
“No,” he shouted, reaching up and anchoring himself to the handle of the front door, wrenching it open. We spilled out onto the murky emerald carpet of the fourth-floor hallway, our laugher bounding down its entire length.
Sunday evening came circling around once again, after what amounted to a weekend of simple activities, joy and detachment. As I texted my mom to confirm, Mikey pondered aspects of the evening which were unknown to him.
“Will anyone be dressed up?”
I laughed. “No. That’s a good one.”
“Isn’t this your last dinner before the move? If it’s a family thing then I-”
“They don’t care. I promise. Come on, you said you would go this week. You’ll have fun.”
He gave in without any additional reluctance and we left in a hurry, as it was already almost six.
Completely out of character, my mom met us right at the door. “Come in, please,” she said, introducing herself before I could open my mouth to speak.
Suddenly I understood why she had asked if Mikey was just a friend, and realized that my response should have been far less ambiguous. I had brought this upon myself.
My dad heaved himself up from his chair, adding, with a grin, that it was about damn time Mikey showed his face around here.
For his part, Mikey didn’t seem to mind. “Nice to finally meet both of you,” he assured them. “Can I help out with anything?”
“Oh, how kind of you to offer. Maybe some of that courtesy will rub off on Wyatt.”
I rolled my eyes. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“No,” she continued, “the table’s set and the food is nearly done. Just make yourself at home. We’ll be eating soon.”
She left for the kitchen and Mikey and I ventured into the living room with my dad.
Stephanie stumbled in just as we sat down. “Oh, he’s here after all,” she proclaimed. “Mikey. Welcome. My mom wouldn’t say for sure that you were coming.”
“That’s because I wasn’t sure,” she countered through the wall.
“Maybe she had to see it to believe it,” suggested Mikey.
Stephanie beckoned him into a hug. “Aww, so glad you made it. Jesus Christ, you’re tall.”
Mikey laughed. “It’s a really nice place you have,” he said after sitting back down and turning to my dad.
“Thanks. Keeps us busy. As you can see, there are quite a few unfinished projects.”
“I like it,” said Mikey.
“Unfinished or completely abandoned,” Stephanie muttered in my direction.
My dad either ignored this or did not hear it.
Mikey sat to my right as we took our places in the dining room, at a fifth table setting along the length of the oak table.
“Mikey, we really don’t eat western food all that often,” said my mom, indicating toward the serving plates of steak and baked potatoes, “but I hope you like it.”
I winced a little.
“I like all food,” said Mikey. “Makes things easy, being from around here.”
“Wyatt tells us you grew up in Corbin, too,” my dad said.
He nodded. “Right. And now I live just south of midtown.”
“Are you close to St. Augustine’s-Midtown?” asked my mom. “It’s where I work.”
“Sort of. Maybe a fifteen-minute drive.”
“That’s a nice Honda you have out there,” said my dad. Is it a lease?”
“I bought it, actually.”
“Good for you. It’s nice when you’re paying each month towards actually owning the thing. That is, if you’re planning on keeping it a long time.”
Mikey had bought the car all at once with cash, but of course he wasn’t about to announce this to my dad. Decidedly, he said, “I’d like to run it into the ground.”
“Well, you picked a good one. The way they’re building them now…it’ll be around long after they put me to rest.”
My mom sat up suddenly. “The wine.” She stood, bumping the table, and shuffled toward the kitchen. “Mikey, will you have a glass?”
“Yes please. Let me help you.”
She delighted at this. “You are just too polite,” she told him.
Together they poured glasses for all of us. Mikey returned with three in his clutches, placing one in front of my dad and handing the second off to me.
Once we had settled well into the meal, my dad pointed his fork toward Mikey and asked, “You’re in software, right? I hear you run the place?”
Mikey nodded, sipping from his wine. “I run it with my cousin.”
“Good for you,” he said for the second time. “And business is doing well?”
“Business is booming,” he said, his enthusiasm bleeding through. “I think we’ve got a really effective team put together.”
“How many?” asked my mom.
“All of us make seventeen.”
“That’s wonderful,” she said.
Stephanie remained unusually quiet as the conversation continued, tuning in politely (and probably in genuine interest) as Mikey offered his replies. Perhaps she had decided that their stitched-together questioning was overwhelming enough. I thought it was, too, although I did smile to myself once or twice at how artfully they avoided the subject of his parents.
“Give him a rest,” my mom said finally as my dad had begun fashioning, with some difficulty, an inquiry into the specifics of his business.
“Fine,” he said, smiling and gesturing dismissively at Mikey. “You’re off the hook.”
Mikey did look a bit relieved.
Near the end of the meal my mom tipped her glass directly up, finished, placed it down next to her plate and said, “I really hope you two don’t lose contact when Wyatt moves away.”
I swallowed my bite a little too early and said, “Mom. We won’t.”
“Don’t worry,” Mikey added quietly, “we won’t.”
She brought a hand to her mouth, as if she had spoken out of turn. “Just ignore me, both of you. I don’t mean to meddle.”
Later on, everyone collected in the living room, traipsing together through the second half of Cloud Atlas (we had missed most of the first half, but had all seen it before). I sat next to Mikey on the couch, a calculated several inches hovering between us. Stephanie tucked her knees to her chest at my right, engrossed in the final scenes, and my mom squeezed in with my dad between the arms of his giant old chair. We had passed around a bowl of popcorn, now leveled to reveal the pearl-slick amber of un-popped kernels.
“Mikey, it was a pleasure meeting you,” said my mom, standing and stretching as the film ended. “I think we’re off to bed, but please stay as long as you like.”
“Thanks for having me. And for dinner,” he said.
We all stood and my mom pulled Mikey into a hug. Unthinkably, my dad did the same and said, “Hope we get to see you again soon.” I noticed now that even Mikey did not surpass my dad’s imposing stature.
Once they had disappeared down the hallway, Stephanie announced that she had an early morning and should be going to bed soon, too.
“We’ll walk you out to your car, if you’re ready,” I said.
As we made our way across the lawn I reached up, letting my fingers sift through the young, milky-white blossoms of the cherry tree.
“Mikey, I’m proud of you for weathering that interrogation earlier,” said Stephanie.
“It really wasn’t that bad.”
“My mom…she worries about things, and she has a habit of prying. Especially when a situation confuses her. She needs to have everything worked out in her mind.”
He shrugged. “It’s okay. I don’t blame her. Our situation is very confusing.”
Stephanie smiled. “I’m sure you guys will work everything out.”
“I’m still debating even going,” I said suddenly. “Please don’t tell Mom and Dad, though.”
“I figured you still weren’t sure.”
“I guess it’s mostly that I’m not sure if I want to keep doing what I’m doing, as a career.”
She paused, folded her arms and leaned slowly against the sealed passenger window of her Camry. She looked briefly at Mikey, then back to me. “I might have guessed that, too. Look, Wyatt, I know that in the end, you’ll do what’s best for you. You’ll look inside of yourself and figure out what that is. And you’ll do it because you listen to all the valuable advice your big sister gives you.”
Mikey laughed quietly.
“Thanks,” I said.
Before driving away, she hugged both of us and said to Mikey, “Don’t let my brother make you crazy.”
He smiled a bit sheepishly.
Her car disappeared and Mikey and I stood alone in the mist above the front lawn. “I could go for a walk before we leave,” he said.
We made our way down the middle of the street, wandering to the edge occasionally as cars glided past. We skirted a cul-de-sac inside the next block, where I had once sweated away summer days playing roller hockey with other kids from around the neighborhood. I pointed out a few scars still visible in the pavement. I showed him a well-tended hedge farther down the street, into which I wedged the Acura, on a rare snowy night during my senior year of high school.
“It had to be towed out,” I said. “You can still see where it hasn’t quite grown back, right there.”
He laughed. “I did worse, back in the day.”
We didn’t speak for a while. I could tell that everything about the evening with my parents had been a lot for Mikey-not more than he could handle, I guessed, but a lot.
“Anything you want to talk about?” I asked him finally.
He hesitated before saying, “Just feeling a little strange, I guess.”
“Yeah. I understand. Thanks for braving my family tonight.”
“It was okay. Honestly, it’s just hard not to, you know, feel like I’m your boyfriend when I’m around them.”
“That’s mostly my fault,” I told him. “My mom asked, and I didn’t say you were, but I also didn’t really tell her you weren’t.”
“It’s alright. Maybe you didn’t know how to answer.”
“I mean, I did. Before you met Marie and Sloan we made it clear, remember?”
He paused. “I don’t expect you to always feel the that way, forever.”
I didn’t know how to respond.
“I’m sorry,” he continued, “it’s just that, even after all this time, I don’t feel like I’m ready to have a-” He stopped himself, drawing in a breath. “I’m just not ready to call you my boyfriend.”
I looked over at him. “What do you mean, ‘all this time’? Mikey, you don’t know how much you’ve changed-and in what, five weeks? Fuck, I didn’t expect you to be ready for any of this.”
We had long since circled back and I began to make out his car through the mist, huddled under the streetlamp at the edge of my parents’ yard.
“I feel relieved now,” he said, “and I hate it.”
I asked him what he meant. He said he didn’t know.
Other Chapters: Mikey and the Chickadee – by kidboise
- Mikey and the Chickadee - Chapter 2
- Mikey and the Chickadee - Chapter 3
- Mikey and the Chickadee - Chapter 4
- Mikey and the Chickadee - Chapter 5
- Mikey and the Chickadee - Chapter 6
- Mikey and the Chickadee - Chapter 7
- Mikey and the Chickadee - Chapter 8
- Mikey and the Chickadee - Chapter 9
- Mikey and the Chickadee - Chapter 10
- Mikey and the Chickadee - Chapter 11
- Mikey and the Chickadee - Chapter 12
- Mikey and the Chickadee - Chapter 13
- Mikey and the Chickadee - Chapter 14
- Mikey and the Chickadee - Chapter 15
- Mikey and the Chickadee - Chapter 16
- Mikey and the Chickadee - Chapter 17