Yearning is when you want something really badly. Like, so bad it hurts.




“Hey,” Justin’s hesitant voice comes across my desk’s speakerphone.

“Hay is for horses,” I reply. Yeah, I’m childish sometimes but that’s his bad influence.

He pushes a fake giggle out of him instead of ignoring my response completely. That reaction, along with his greeting, and the track record he’s held for the last two of the five years he’s been in New York, indicates that it’s going to be ‘one of those’ calls. I briefly wondered what he would do if I didn’t answer his call but ignoring it wouldn’t have changed what I know is coming.


I want to spit out, ‘just get on with it’, but I won’t because if I show him that I have any negative feelings about this at all, he won’t do what he needs to do and one day he’ll regret it and I’ll be the reason for it.

He clears his throat. “I have this thing.”

This is how it always begins. “Uh-huh?”

“I guess I don’t really have this thing because it isn’t really mine and I’ll have to have some other artists help me with the base coats, but I guess it’s sort of mine because my name will be on the plaque but it isn’t set in stone yet cause I told Trista, she’s the recreation department’s creative director, I told her that I’d have to think about it and I have and I really want to see you but if I’m gonna do it, I have to meet with her tomorrow and it’s…”

“A really great opportunity,” I say before he can.

“Uh, yeah,” he tells me. “It’s supposed to be anyway, but who the fuck knows?” He breathes frustration against the mouthpiece of his phone. “That fucking mural I did for the children’s museum was supposed to be a great opportunity too but it wasn’t. Okay, okay, I guess that’s not true ‘cause the manager recommended me to Trista but…” He takes a deep breath and lets it out in a long sigh.

Justin always does what he wants. If he really wanted to be here, he would be. He wants this project, like all the others, even more. I don’t begrudge him success, it’s the whole reason he’s in New York. I am a selfish asshole though, so when he’s about to cancel not only a weekend with me for the umpteenth time in the last five years, but also his ‘homecoming’, yeah, it makes me want to throttle him and end our partnership. But I won’t. It won’t ever be me because I can take the pain of time and it won’t ever be me because if it were, then I’d just appear to be an unsupportive prick. It won’t ever be me because he’s it for me and I know how good it is to have him and I know how bad it can be when he isn’t mine. The only way it would ever be me is if I realized he was sacrificing what he really wanted to be with me or if he finally found someone who deserves him and I let go of my selfish side and him.

“Tell me about the project,” I say.

“You really want to hear about it?”

Of course I want to hear the details of the reason why he’s cancelling. “No, I’d rather just tell Debbie some vague reason and have her grill me for more information I don’t have.” Not the most supportive reply, but I’m doing what I can.

“It’s kind of cool, actually. For a couple of years, the city has been trying to restore and revitalize the park and they want to get rid of all the graffiti. They want to commission me to paint the chairs that face the East River and to also paint an earthy mural on the back of the concession building, all with colors that will blend with the environment.”

“So you can paint anything on this stuff?”

“Pretty much, as long as I stick to the themes they want represented: peace, love, diversity, unity and independence.”

They’ll probably be the most beautiful wooden benches in the whole fucking world, if graffiti artists don’t fuck it all up. “If there is a problem with graffiti, do they think having you paint them is going to stop it?”

“That’s what I thought when Trista told me about it but apparently there’s some kind of sealer that we’ll spray over each one after the paint dries and it will make it resist any damage any graffiti artists try. All the park maintainers will have to do is spray them down or wait for it to rain and any marks on top of the sealer will wash away. They’re also installing security cameras throughout the park and posting signs alerting residents of this so that should be a big deterrent. While we’re working on them, the whole area will be blocked off with gates and inaccessible to the public.”

“And they’re going to give you a plaque for doing this?” I understand that he’s got to do some projects for free to help get his name out there but this sounds like it’s going to take a lot of time, time away from his personal art.

“No, they’re not going to give it to me; they’re going to place it there somewhere in the park!”

It’s good to hear him sound so excited, the mural he did for the children’s museum wasn’t his type of art at all and he said that just going there each day to work on it was hard to do. “So whoever goes to this park is going to see your name on the plaque?”

“Yup. It may not be a gallery but who knows, thousands of people will see the benches and it might get me noticed.”

“I’m happy for you, Justin.” I really am, even if I’m still annoyed and unhappy that he’s not returning home yet.

“The unveiling is going to be on the Fourth of July.”

It’s February now. “When would you start on it?”

“At the beginning of next month.”

“And you’ll be doing this outside?” The cold is not good for his hand and I don’t like the thought of him catching pneumonia because he’d be too stubborn to admit he’s cold.

“There will be movable tents set up and I’ll dress warm,” he tells me. “It won’t be so bad. It’ll be worth it in the end. They’re going to have a huge celebration for the grand re-opening of the area and cap it all off with fireworks. Trista said I might have to make a speech and the best part is, me and whoever ever I choose to be on my team will get to cut this massive red ribbon along the pathway! I wonder if I’ll have some giant scissors like they give people in the movies whenever they cut the ribbons?”

I can’t contain my laughter; I mean come on, he sounds more excited about cutting a ribbon than anything else. “How many benches are there?”

“I don’t know yet. I’ll have to meet with her to assess the project details.”

“The details including what you’ll be paid for this?” I ask hopefully.

“Yes,” he replies in a funny tone. “I know I should’ve been smarter about how I handled the museum mural’s commission and supplies. I won’t make the same mistake twice.”

I wonder if the reason they chose Justin in the first place is because they know he ended up practically doing the children’s museum mural for free. I won’t say anything about that though, he was embarrassed enough to tell me about how badly they fucked him over because he didn’t want me to be disappointed in him. I wasn’t, I was hurt for him, pissed that he wasted his time and talents doing something that didn’t even inspire him and got a measly one hundred dollars out of it. “After they draw up the contract you should fax it to me and I’ll have Darren take a look at it before you sign anything.”

“So, you’re saying I should do it?” he asks softly, hopefully.

“It’s your career and I support your decision. If you think it’s something you can accomplish and the contract is on the up and up, there’s no reason for you to not do it.”

Brian, you know there’s a damn good reason for me to say no.”

“I’ll survive,” I say and know now what I have to do. “If you do this, I’ll come to New York to visit instead of you coming here. I’ll be there for the great unveiling and we’ll watch the fireworks together.”


I didn’t go to the unveiling of the mural at the museum but that was upon his request, he hated it so much he barely wanted to take credit for it. “Of course.” I’ve attended every other gallery show or project he’s been a part of in New York.

“But you hate fireworks. They give you an instant migraine and…”

“I’ll be there,” I cut him off. “I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”

“Brian,” he sighs.

I know what’s coming. “It’s okay.”

“It’ll be soon,” he says with a faint promise I can’t accept quite yet.

I want him home, I meant every word of my proposal to him and I intend to marry him. I’ve been as patient as I can be; yearning for him to decide what he wants and either come home or stay in New York for good. It’s against my nature to sit idle and allow someone else to dictate my life. Even though Justin’s choices reflect in mine and the biggest choice I’ll ever make can only be done along with him, I have do something to make it easier for him to decide what he really wants. “Justin, I’ll talk to you tomorrow; I’ve got a shit load of work to do.”

“Brian, I love you,” he says it with a passionate pain I’ve come to expect each time I hear it.

“Go draw out the ideas I know are swimming around in your head,” I tell him. “I love you.” I end the call a moment after I say it because if it continued any longer I would’ve had to listen to his apologies, regrets and fears and I have too many of those myself to get lost in his.


~~~5 Months Later~~~

Every time I walk up the steps to Bowies, a wave of nostalgia grips my heart. When my roommate, Janelle, first introduced me to her favorite bar five years ago, I almost couldn’t go inside. From the outside, the bar looks identical to Woody’s, though the street it’s on is nothing like Liberty Avenue, the building and style of the sign are the same. At the time, I’d only been in New York for two days and I was desperately trying to forget about every single thing that made me second guess my decision to move.

“What kind of bar is this?” I had asked, pausing on the steps before the door.

“It’s a bar. There’s a bartender inside who you pay to give you cheap drinks, and chairs and tables to sit at while drinking them,” she spoke slowly.

I was completely dissatisfied with the description but wanted to lose myself in liquor and figured that would make any other similarities blur as soon as the alcohol hit me. I went inside and was relieved to see the interior looked nothing like Woody’s. Bowie’s turned out to be a karaoke bar, something Janelle was afraid to tell me in case I hated it. I didn’t really mind, it was entertaining and put me in a good mood. Months later she convinced me to sing and because I was feeling pretty down about practically everything, I figured I didn’t have much to lose and gave an awesome performance of ‘Pour Some Sugar on Me’. Bowie’s became the place I’d go whenever I wanted to let off steam, needed praise or wanted to feel at home.

“I’ve never taken Brian here,” I say needlessly. My friends have asked me many times why I don’t take Brian here when he visits. I never really have an answer for why I won’t and Brian seems to not really care because he hates Karaoke anyway.

Wade curls his arm around my neck, pressing our foreheads together and stares into my eyes. “You are not allowed to get all Brian weepy. This is a celebration!” He lets me go and grabs his beer. “To the chairs!”

“To finally getting the paint out of my hair!” Tamara says, raising her bottle with one hand and ruffling her long paint splattered blond hair with her other hand.

“To being able to pay my rent and eat this month,” Arnie says.

“And if you didn’t insist on eating pretentious foods, you could be like me,” Mira teases him and wiggles her rum and coke in the air. “To paying my rent and being able to eat for the next six months!”

“To Justin’s talents.” Janelle kisses my cheek. “It was an amazing opportunity for all of us, thank you for choosing us to be on your team!”

“To Justin!” My team, my friends, shout so loud it makes the guy singing karaoke stop for a minute to look at us before going back to singing.

I come here for praise, but hearing my friends make a big deal about me is still kind of embarrassing. Especially because I can’t stop wishing Brian was here. “Thanks, guys,” I tell them all. “I couldn’t have done it without you,” I say and take a drink of my beer.

“Of course not,” Janelle teases, “someone had to remind you to put on sunscreen.”

The promised tents were a hindrance after a while and we ended up choosing not to use them. The result was me; the only one of my team with pale skin, getting a severe sunburn and barely being able to move my arms the next day. The memory of Brian rubbing lotion on me when he visited two days later is agonizingly strong. I feel his hands, hear his whispered words and can taste his kiss. I know I should feel happy right now but I’m not. I want Brian but I want my friends, this city, too.

All of the people surrounding me right now have made a huge impact on my life. I couldn’t have survived here without them and not just because of the weekly pot-luck and occasional lending of cash to pay for a monthly Pass card. They became my family as much as the gang at home is my family. I hated New York until I became friends with all of them, though Janelle was pretty awesome from the start, she made me miss Daphne more than anything. About a month after I moved here, she found out that a studio was coming available in the same place she had hers and I quickly jumped on it. She’d shown me her space before, it wasn’t much more than a long narrow room with a sink and a shared bathroom down the hall, but I loved it. Spending most of my free time there, I met a lot of the other artists, who Janelle was already close with and they welcomed me and eventually made my yearning to go home, hurt a little less. They’ve given me so much and now I feel like if I go home I’m going to be abandoning them.

Yes, I love Brian more than I love them all but I connect with them in ways I never did with most of my friends back in Pittsburgh. I love my family there, the family Brian gave me, the family my persistence earned, but I didn’t have to earn Janelle, Wade, Tamara, Arnie and Mira. All the times I planned to go home over the last two years, I had legitimate reasons for not going, for extending my stay; it had nothing to do with wanting to stay here with my friends. Now that the situation is a big reality and there’s nothing in the way to stop it, my friends definitely make me not want to leave. I know what I can expect from them and I know what they expect from me. In this crazy busy city, I’ve felt simple here.

Even though I wished to go home hundreds of times, I didn’t ever feel prepared to go back. As much as I missed Brian, there’s something to be said for dedicated weekends and the occasional week-long visits. Even when I went home, the family mostly allowed us to live in a bubble. Whenever Brian has come to New York, I stretch that bubble at times. Brian is still a cocky asshole, but he’s a lot more open now. He tells me things he would never have before I moved and the only show he puts on in front of my friends is a sexual, ‘bet you wish you were us’ performance. He holds my hand while we walk down the street and I don’t ever feel like he’s afraid that someone will see ‘The King of Liberty Avenue’ has been tamed.

I don’t ask what he does with other men in Pittsburgh when I’m not there because whenever we’re together, he isn’t with anyone else. When I visit, the guys give us shit, asking us if we’re going to check out the baths when we say we want to leave Babylon early or nudging us to go after a hot guy who checks us out at Woody’s. That shit doesn’t happen here in New York. Brian and I both still look, but I don’t ever think he wants to do more. Here, the only reputation Brian has is that he’s my insanely good-looking, successful partner who I’m madly in love with. I like the reputation I have here too, I like that the first thing my friends knew about me had nothing to do with who I am to Brian.

“What are you going to sing tonight?” Mira asks me, pushing the song book in front of me.

I push the book over to Wade. “Not sure yet. I’m gonna go out for a smoke,” I tell them, finishing my beer as I stand up.

Janelle pops up from her chair and loops her arm with mine. “I’m coming too.”

Shit, she’s going to give me hell for being so melancholy. We walk outside and I ask her, “So when did you pick up smoking?”

“You think I would’ve after living with a smoker for five years.” She snorts. “Tell me what’s on your mind; get it out now so that you can have fun. This is going to be our last hurrah until you come and visit or until you invite us to visit you in Pittsburgh.”

“You’ve heard it all before,” I tell her and light my cigarette. “I’m freaking out about going home. I want to marry Brian more than I want to stay here. I’m scared of what it’s going to be like living with him in Pittsburgh again. I like Brooklyn and don’t ever want to leave. I have to leave if I want to spend the rest of my life with Brian. I have to leave if I want the yearning to be with him to come to an end. I feel like he’s not going to want the me that I’ll become when I have to go back to living there while craving to be here.” Oh my god! Oh my god! Did I just say that aloud?

“Holy shit!”

I guess I did. “Janelle, I didn’t mean…”

“You meant it,” she interrupts and takes a few steps backward. Her big brown eyes blink slowly. “You’ve told me that you’re nervous about living with him and knowing Brian’s mood swings and neat freakiness I understood why. You’ve said many times that Pittsburgh has nothing on New York, but you’ve spoke fondly of it more often than not. This is… Justin, you do realize that you don’t actually have to move home.”

I laugh half heartedly. “Actually, I really do. I know that Brian won’t leave me, that he’d wait for me if I said I was staying again, no matter what reason I give him. But I couldn’t live with myself if I did that to him again. Even though I know that he’s the only man I want to be with for the rest of my life, if I stayed here, I’d have to let him go. I’ve already been cruel enough. He doesn’t deserve to be treated the way I have treated him.”

“You couldn’t help it before,” she says curiously. “Right?”

“No, I really did have other reasons to stay here. You know that.”

“I did, but I was just making sure. So back then, when you thought you were going home, before commissions and other stuff got in the way, did you feel like you do right now?”

“Maybe not right away,” I admit. “But after the first time I called off my homecoming and went back to Pittsburgh to visit, I felt relieved that I wasn’t living there.”



“I didn’t get it before…” she sighs and puts her hand over her heart. “Oh, Justin. I know why you never invited Brian to Bowie’s.”

“You do?” I hoped I hid it but Janelle is my best friend, next to Daphne and Brian and she knows me too well. I should’ve expected she’d understand one day.

“You don’t bring him here because this place reminds you of your bar at home and you’re afraid to show him that you have a permanent place to go to let off steam. That’s a given, but there’s a lot more to it because when you’re up on that stage, singing your heart out and releasing all the shit that’s happened in your life, you’re free. You love the applause but the rush you feel doesn’t only come from our cheering, it’s there because you feel like you’ve come home every time you step up on that stage. You don’t want him to know that this town is your home and the songs you sing inside this crummy little bar represent that.”

“I don’t want to him to see that I fit in here. He knows I fit in with you guys, but if he sees just how well adjusted ‘little Sunshine’ is in the big bad city, he’d do something to push me away.”

“But that’s what you’re doing,” Janelle states putting her hands on her hips. “You’re pushing him away by not showing him, by not giving him the chance to see how you fit here.”

“There’s no point in it now,” I say. “I’m going back to Pittsburgh in a week.”

“Oh my god!” she gasps. “I just thought of something.”


“You lie to him!”

I may omit things but… “I don’t lie to Brian. It’s impossible, he’d know if I did.”

“Really? I seem to remember you pretending like you didn’t know what train to take into the city when he was here a few weeks ago. You asked me in this innocent little voice and I thought you were kidding but I told you anyway. That isn’t the first time, either. Whenever you take him anywhere you ask me for directions or advice about places to eat, but you know all that shit. When Brian isn’t here you don’t ask me any of that stuff, you just go and do it. You use ‘little Sunshine’ to make him think you’re still the semi-innocent boy who came to New York five years ago. You’re so easy going when he’s here and let our friends or Brian make all the decisions, and I really thought it was because you were in a perpetual state of bliss and didn’t care what game we played, what we ate or where we were going because you were just happy to do it with Brian.”

“I didn’t always act that way purposely,” I defend myself, but feel like a big asshole.

Her eyebrows draw together and she glares at me. “Have you led him to believe that you don’t even like us? That we could never compare to your friends at home?”

“What? Of course not! I’d never do that!”

“But your success,” she says lowly. “I thought you were modest, but from the way you stick your nose in the air when you get a commission, I should’ve known you aren’t. Does Brian have any idea how comfortably you live? Does he know about all the connections you’ve made? Surely he can’t believe that you’re a starving artist, he’s seen our apartment.”

“He doesn’t know all of it,” I confess, tears pooling in my eyes. “But not for the reasons you think. At first I didn’t tell him about all the commissions and gallery showings because I didn’t want him to encourage me to stay here when I really wanted to be at home. Then, once I realized how much I wanted to be here, I also knew that until I acquired an agent, Brian wouldn’t consider me successful or be proud of me and feel like our time apart was worth it. It would’ve been okay for me to go home a failure after two years but now, after five, how can I justify our time apart? If I showed him how at home I was, without true success even being a part of it, it would’ve only hurt him. Worse, he’d be disappointed in me, think I wasn’t focusing on my career like I should’ve been. I can’t make you understand, Janelle. I’m sorry if I pissed you off, but…”

“Fuck this!”


“You are so completely fucked up, Justin! I thought I was the worst out of all of us, for fucks sake, I’ve had three abusive boyfriends, one miscarriage and two bad reviews in Critics Corner. But you, you’re seriously fucked up. You have like the greatest boyfriend ever, you’re a transplant that has never gotten lost anywhere in New York and seems to always know the best places to go before they become the new ‘it’ place. You have contacts in the art world the rest of us only wish we had and you’re fucking ten times more successful than the rest of us and have a bank account to prove it. I’m not going to dwell on how unsuccessful you must think we all are compared to you because I know you don’t think that way. I am going to tell you that tonight, you’re gonna sing your fucking heart out like you never have before. It’s going to be your best performance.”

“But what is me singing going to do?” I ask, feeling helpless. “If I’m as fucked up as you say, what is that going to change?”

“We’ll figure that out later,” she tells me and grabs my arm. “You’re not allowed to think any negative thoughts. Tonight you’re gonna show me and the rest of our friends just how much you love New York and how much you’re going to miss everything about it.”

“Okay.” I toss my cigarette. There’s no point in arguing with Janelle. Tomorrow I can think about all the shit I shouldn’t have done and all the things I shouldn’t have said tonight.



“Brian, are you sure about this?”

I glare at Michael for voicing the question he’s asked me almost every time we’ve seen one another or spoken on the phone. This time though, I give him a truthful answer I’m sure he isn’t expecting, “No.”

His eyes narrow. “Did you just say ‘no’?”

“It’s going to be Justin’s decision,” I say. “I’ve done all I can do.”

“He’d be stupid to turn you down.”

“Or smart,” I mutter, staring out at the harbor. “What do you think of the apartment?” I ask.

“Are you really asking me what he’ll think?” Mikey asks.

I shrug. “Either one.”

“Justin will love it. I’ve seen the place he’s living in now and though it’s not a hovel, it doesn’t look like a home. He’s going to love the outdoor space too.”

This apartment in Downtown Brooklyn is nothing like the style he’s used to living in in Williamsburg but it was as close as I could get him to Williamsburg without compromising on safety, space and design. The building is a blend of old Brooklyn style and modern touches and though I was tempted to choose a more spacious and luxurious apartment I toured in Park Slope, it was far from his studio and it too closely resembled the loft.

I feel my phone vibrate in my pocket and when I take it out to look, there’s a text from Janelle with a link to her youtube channel.

“Is that Justin?” Michael asks, walking over to me and peering at my phone.

“No, it’s from Janelle, she sent me a link to a video. She sends me a video of Justin and the hipster geeks being stupid about once a week.”

“Does Justin know about these videos?”

“Usually not until after the fact,” I laugh, waiting for the page to load. “The video isn’t public, only those with the link can access it so he’s given up being mad about it. Fuck, the damn thing won’t load! Stupid fucking piece of shit phone!”

“Can’t you just send the link to your email and we’ll watch it on your computer?” Michael smartly suggests.

I do just that and drag him over to the sofa with me. I have a computer hooked up to the new flat screen to satisfy my guilty pleasure of watching old 80’s movies that Netflix airs. “No looking,” I tease him as I type in my email password.

“Like I can’t guess what it is?” Michael says challenging.

“I wouldn’t tell you if you got it right,” I say. He grabs the wireless keyboard from my lap and types into the search box. I give him a smug look when the wrong password is given. “You’d never get it,” I say and type it in myself. I get the link and this time the youtube page loads fast.

“Oh yay, we get to watch Justin behave like a drunken fool at a bar,” Michael says happily.

“It’s not just any bar,” I tell him. I may have never been invited but the background noise gives it away. “It’s a karaoke bar.”

“Justin does karaoke?” Michael laughs. “This is just getting better and better.”

“Be quiet,” I tell him when the cheering dies out and Justin steps up onto the stage.

“Sorry,” Michael whispers.

Justin takes the microphone from the last performer and walks over to the DJ and whispers in his ear. They say something unintelligible and then Justin walks to the center of the stage, the lights in the whole place go down and he’s illuminated by a spotlight, his shaggy blond hair looking like a halo. I wait for Justin to begin singing, but he just stands there a moment and the crowd starts cheering his name. He doesn’t look nervous, pensive maybe, but then he smiles and the one gesture seems to affect the whole bar and it’s deafeningly loud on the speakers but I don’t turn it down. He places his hand over his heart and speaks, “Thank you.”

“He’s popular,” Michael concludes from beside me.

“This will be my final performance at Bowie’s,” he says and the crowd makes noises of sorrow but eventually the sounds end. “I just wanted to thank all of the regulars, especially my best friends, and everyone else who has sat through my excruciatingly bad singing.”

The crowd laughs and a distant voice shouts, “You’re a beautiful singer!”

“We’ll miss you!” Someone else says.

“Thank you, I’m going to miss you guys too. I came to New York with a goal in mind and I think I’ve accomplished a million other things I never intended to and I think they might mean more to me than the reasons I first came here. It’s time for me to go home.” His smile gets even wider and the camera zooms closer and I see tears in his eyes. “Brooklyn will always have a big piece of my heart but there’s a man back home that’s waiting for me and he’s got the biggest piece of my heart. This place, it’s given me an outlet to express myself and be as silly or serious as I wanted without any constraints and I really needed that while I was here.” He points directly toward the table where Janelle and the rest of the group is sitting. “I love you.”

A tune I’m only familiar with because I’ve heard him playing it when I’ve surprised him by coming to his studio begins to play. The camera zooms back to capture his whole body. I hold my breath, waiting for him to sing and when he does, I’m mesmerized. For five long minutes I silently watch him, listen to him like I probably never have heard him before.

Load the car and write the note
Grab your bag and grab your coat
Tell the ones that need to know
We are headed north

One foot in and one foot back
But it don't pay to live like that
So I cut the ties and I jumped the tracks
For never to return

Ah Brooklyn Brooklyn take me in
Are you aware the shape I'm in
My hands they shake my head it spins
Ah Brooklyn Brooklyn take me in

When at first I learned to speak
I used all my words to fight
With him and her and you and me
Oh but it's just a waste of time
Yeah it's such a waste of time

That woman she's got eyes that shine
Like a pair of stolen polished dimes
She asked to dance I said it's fine
I'll see you in the morning time

Ah Brooklyn Brooklyn take me in
Are you aware the shape I’m in
My hands they shake my head it spins
Ah Brooklyn Brooklyn take me in

Three words that became hard to say
I and love and you
What you were then, I am today
Look at the things I do

Ah Brooklyn Brooklyn take me in
Are you aware the shape I'm in
My hands they shake my head it spins
Ah Brooklyn Brooklyn take me in

Dumbed down and numbed by time and age
Your dreams to catch the world, the cage
The highway sets the traveler's stage
All exits look the same

Three words that became hard to say
I and love and you
I and love and you
I and love and you

As the song ends, I feel everything I’m sure he made each person in that bar feel, but it’s magnified because he’s mine and he thinks he’s leaving everything he has here, for me.

“Jesus, Brian,” Michael gasps. “What was that song?”

“I and Love and You”,” I tell him, my voice gravely. I look at Mikey and he’s wiping his eyes with his hands and my eyes are blurred with tears. “That fucker.”

Michael puts his hands on my knees and stares into my eyes with a desperate look. “You have to call him. You have to show him this place, tomorrow. You can’t wait any longer!”

“I know.” I do. I’m not an idiot; I know he loves it here. If I weren’t positive he loved New York, I would never have started the plans to open a Kinnetik, New York and I never would’ve bought this apartment. It took me a little while to figure it out, around the time he accepted the museum commission actually, he may not have even been aware he was doing it, but he was looking for reasons to stay. During our conversation about the ‘chair project’ I realized that it wasn’t because I wasn’t enough for him, it was because Pittsburgh wasn’t enough for him anymore. It hadn’t ever really been enough for me either but those thoughts were quieted by Justin and then when he left, by work and all the other things that have kept me busy. “He knows everyone is going to be here for the Fourth, that’s in two days. If I show him this tomorrow, it’s not going to be the same.”

“But he’s hurting,” Michael says. “He needs to know that he’s staying here.”

“All he had to do was tell me about it,” I say.

“So you’re punishing him?”

“Just for a couple of days. If he’s kept his feelings to himself this long, a couple of days isn’t going to matter.”

“I hope you’re right,” Michael says.

“I’m always right.”



And I was. I asked him to meet me at a client’s home, that he wanted to have me and my partner over for lunch before we went down to the park for the afternoon. I had wanted to have him all to myself but Michael couldn’t keep his mouth shut and instead of everyone surprising Justin at the park, they all showed up at the apartment and were there waiting for him with me.

“Who lives here?” he asked.

The memory of my other proposal came to my mind and I grinned. “We do.” I explained, “This is our home, if you want it to be.”

“But how? You have Kinnetik and you can’t just…”

“Kinnetik New York is in the works. I’m moving here. Technically, I’ve already moved.”

Justin proceeded to behave like a child, bouncing around the room, hugging and thanking everyone, as if they had anything to do with my decision to move or supplied money for the fabulous apartment he would be living in. After lunch, we kicked everyone out and we had an hour to ourselves before Justin had to meet his friends and our family at the park. Our bedroom has a beautiful view of the harbor and I kept the drapes open and the sun illuminated his body and smile the whole time I fucked him.

“I’m proud of you,” I tell him, shout it loud really because the fireworks booming around us still make what I said sound like a whisper.

“Because I’ve finally got an agent?” He gestures around us and spins twice before crashing into my body, into my arms. “Because I’m finally a success? Are you proud to be mine?” His corny smile gets wider. “Go on, choose the best reason!”

“I choose them all,” I say and bend down so my mouth is against his ear. “I’m proud to be yours. I was proud of you before you ever went to L.A., before you decided to come here, before you tethered an agent and gallery opening all in the same night. I’m proud of you for doing everything you needed to do, to get you right here with me.” Yeah, I can be corny too. “I love you.”

He wedges himself even closer to me and his lips part against the shell of my ear. “I love you.”

Even if we say it every time we talk on the phone, every time I visited him, every time I said goodbye and sometimes when we fucked in a way that’s probably defined with a term I won’t ever admit to enacting, it isn’t just words with us. Because when you really know what it means, when you finally admit to feeling like the words are camouflaged inside every breath you take, the syllables a part of your heartbeat and the phrase becomes the sweat where your bodies meet, right then, the words disappear into your body and transform into something more. They’re no longer ‘I’ and ‘love’ and ‘you’. They’re united, seamless and later when it’s just us alone, in our new home for the first time and the room is quiet except for our breathing, all the yearning will have come to an end and following the three words I’ll whisper in his ear, hearing them returned, there will be fireworks.

The End

AN: The song mentioned is by The Avett Brothers and I highly recommend listening to it.

Feedback for galeandrandy

or email to

Return to Fireworks Challenge