Whenever You Call (short fiction)

​I last saw him at night. The last memory you have of another seems dark in some way. No light needed to be shed on him; he was so beautiful. Typically, life interfered. Somebody saw us together that night. We didn’t intend to be seen by someone either one of us knew, for that resulted in catastrophe. We were supposed to remain a secret, an unsung pact. Earth was supposed to remain blind to us. Our love was supposed to remain intangible and undeclared, out of any focus. One would think our love wouldn’t be so taboo in our era of time, but, in Burbank, California, people are not so embracing and tolerant of our kind of love. “I want to scream it from the mountaintops,” he once said, zealously. However, we were indirectly stoned by homophobic leeches.
​I woke up one morning, and he had disappeared. The angels fled from Heaven. I had no say in the matter. All of my pleading was mute. Suddenly, love felt like a pretense of a force that was not as it claimed to be. It was like waking up to the absence of ultra-violet rays, like my head was missing from my body. Uptown Burbank, California was quickly transforming from an affluent suburb to a haunted graveyard only I was aware of. Sure, there was always the living that claimed, “You’ll be alright,” “Life goes on.” Still, they just floated indifferently past my deadly obsession with daydreaming about him.
​The phone rang. It was like a wake up call amidst a rather lazy, languid afternoon. My mother said, “If it’s a bill collector, tell them I’m dead.” I answered the phone, “Hello?”
​“I want to see you,” he said. My thoughts and heart raced one another, as if my own chemistry was out to get me. “I want to see you this afternoon,” he practically demanded. “Meet me at our coffee shop at noon,” he said. Did we still have a coffee shop? It was now years since I’d last heard from him, and everything that was ours felt disintegrated, robbed of any chance to continue existing.
​“Why?” I softly asked.
​“There’s so much I want to tell you; more than I can say on the phone.
​“Okay, I’ll be there at noon,” I hung up.
​I thought she had been preoccupied and oblivious, but apparently, my mother had heard every word. “You’re not really going to meet him, are you?”
​“Well…,” I was going to say something, but she interrupted. “He’s a chicken shit! He broke your heart. Don’t let him take your pride too!”
​“It’s been a long time. I think I’m stronger than all that now,” I answered, trying to convince her. She replied, “Yeah, but I know you. You’ll see him and become that lonely boy again. Don’t allow yourself to become vulnerable to him again!”
​What should I wear? I wondered. He last knew me as the teenager who was always in black. I’ll wear colors this time. Not neon colors, but Earth tones. I wanted to convey a positive transformation of myself. A beige sweater over an auburn polo shirt? It was Autumn, after all. Yes, and I’ll wear my brown corduroy pants, I decided. Should I leave the goatee? Sophisticated is how some people said a goatee made me look. Again, I only looked sophisticated. I left the goatee.
​A variety of coffee aromas infused even the atmosphere outside of ‘our coffee shop.’ Hazelnut. French vanilla. Eggnog, for the holidays. The pastries were their own spectacle as well. Oatmeal. Chocolate. Pumpkin, for the season. All of this decadence glorified the anticipation of meeting Jason for the first time in ten years. We had first met in Autumn. Our togetherness was at home in the Fall, however faded it may seem now.
​I assessed the coffee shop, in search of Jason. It was like trying to find my way home. Bohemians inundated the place. Wiry hippies and pacifists sipped their hot beverages, as humanity’s armor evaporated. Not even an international war could put a damper on the sweet laughter that blended with the flavorful steam everyone in the shop inhaled.
​Laughter and all, I felt desperate to find Jason. It seemed as though I searched everywhere. Everywhere I went, I looked for him. My intuition was confused, for sometimes he seemed close, and other times, only a burial was missing. I pleaded with myself not to cry. He abandoned me and created my desperation. I was desperate to find him, and I was desperate not to cry.
​“They’re playing our song,” a voice said, and it sounded directed at me. Was it wishful thinking? Or was it really Jason? The voice I heard reminded me of the first phone conversation Jason and I had. I recalled the resonating, sociable tone of his voice, more outgoing than mine was back then. They were indeed playing our song. It was Mariah Carey’s ballad, “Whenever You Call.”
​“You look different!” he told me. “So do you!” I replied. We were now sitting at a table, almost claustrophobic because of the bohemian throng. He was drinking a hot chocolate, and I was sipping on my eggnog frappaccino. Some things never change. However, he did, in fact, look different. He was wearing all black, complete with a black wrist band, as though he belonged to some master. What happened to the bright colors? What happened to my sunshine? He was now a walking eclipse.
​“I wonder how much we’ve changed,” I said.
​“It’s been ten years,” he said.
​“Maybe the passing of time is merely camouflage for what’s eternal,” I remarked.
​“Only one can hope,” he responded.​
​Does he really hope so? I thought. Does he really hope our feelings for one another were frozen in time and never melted away? I know I’ve always thought of him. My thoughts of him were as constant as the descending of the sun.
​We talked about music. We had always talked about music, when we shared favorite musicians and genres. “Have you heard of Brandi Carlile?” I asked him. “No, have you heard of Aqua?” he asked me. “No,” I answered. I noticed the guy at the next table was reading Kate Braverman’s “Palm Latitudes.” “That’s a good book,” I told Jason. He said, “Picking up a book is the last thing I’d do. There’s so much of life to enjoy.” There is? I wondered. I lived vicariously through books. It now seemed Jason had experienced a lot more of life than I had, or than I ever will. Had I lost Jason to reality?
​“I’m sorry,” he said, out of context, off subject. “For what?” I asked. “For leaving you the way I did,” he answered. “Well, you could have dumped me in person, instead of over an e-mail” “I know,” he softly replied.
​Jason just didn’t simply dump me, though. I endured a spiritual demise. My heart turned an apathetic corner. There was a snow storm in the four chambers of my heart. I had experienced psychosis over someone I hardly recognized anymore.
​Time went by. Jason and I had little to talk about. As it turned out, we no longer had much common ground. I had given him the remainder of my youth, and he didn’t realize that enough to appreciate such a surrender. This stranger held my heart. Someday, I’ll take it back, maybe when I long to yield it to someone else. Maybe that won’t be for another ten years.


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