(damaged boys) 13

(damaged boys) 13: sans souci
There were five of them in the row of townhouses, and underneath the sheen of public normalcy and personal success lived the gaping damage within.
sans souci (without concern)
Braden returned from Charleston with a mild sunburn and a quiet understanding about love. For once, it finally made sense. His brief encounter with Thomas made him think differently and feel differently. It was nothing like the endless parade of twinks and club boys in and out of his condo. He’d thought love was sentimental and ridiculous and unattainable. But, then there was Thomas, perfect and lovely in every way.

Braden was home, but part of him remained in Charleston…along the lush green avenues and strident blue-gray harbor. Thomas had surprised him. He was drawn to his silky Southern charms and his impeccably white teeth. He liked the way he tasted when they kissed. His lips like gorgeous fruit, perfect and sweet.
Braden drove along the boulevard through the trendy neighborhood full of gay boys and purebred dogs and Glam-rock boutiques. Here, there was no class. Just daily living. Probably exotic and progressive to those dim rural fags who got excited at the sight of an Olive Garden. But, to Braden, he might have just as well passed it by. He’d traveled the boulevard at least once every day for the past six years, since moving into the city and starting his new life, since Alan died.
No, he wasn’t going to allow that memory here. No…he would think only of Thomas now. There would be no thoughts of dead lovers and suicide and drugs. That was too messy. Death left a trail…a horrible, disgusting, sickening trail of loose ends and scraps. That was Alan. That was a mess he’d long ago reorganized, and filed far, far away. No, Thomas was clean and neat and tanned. He wore crisp clothes in the colors of clay and azure and russet. He flossed. He could fit neatly into Braden’s life if only he wasn’t 1500 miles away, or off on a boat somewhere.
The boulevard swept through the city like a long ribbon, curling through neighborhoods. Past apartments and homes, past businesses and coffee shops and car washes, it went everywhere and nowhere…it disappeared on both ends…one onto the shoreway along the lake, and the other dissipated into an old residential neighborhood with dead-ends and one-way streets.
He passed the Diner where all the trendy boys and their entourages gathered on weekend mornings to rehash and relive their nocturnal exploits over cups of strong coffee and fruit salad. For all the fuss that was made over getting ready to go out, Braden wondered why so many of them didn’t seem to mind being seen in broad daylight, unbathed. They smelled of smoky clubs. Their hair covered by baseball caps and do-rags. Some arrived with pillow creases still visible on their cheeks. It was exactly the kind of place Braden would never go for fear of running into someone, anyone. And it all suddenly felt so small. Braden needed out.
Braden’s mind wandered back to Thomas, and the memory of him sitting shirtless on deck in the morning sunlight. His gorgeous skin soaked in rays of white-hot light, his sandy brown chest chair and the dark trail from his navel, which disappeared below the towel wrapped around his waist. The vision of it blazed until it was burned and indelible.
Braden returned to the lonely quiet of his empty row house, lonely to anyone but him. He embraced the stillness and the quiet, revered the emptiness and the solace. There was, invariably, the time when it was necessary to have company, be it family, friends or others. But there was also the time for them to leave, time for the silence and the orderliness. There were two categories in Braden’s life, those things that were orderly, and those that were not. It seemed people always caused some period of reorganization in his life.
Relationships were never orderly, clean or easy, for that matter. Sometimes he wondered if it was worth the effort at all. It was much simpler to remain cool, detached and in control. Braden detested the unpredictable nature of human relationships, the brooding, the yelling, the expectations. It was neater to have things clearly explained up-front…no surprises or lies or love. No, love was complicated…too complicated.
Braden enjoyed his time alone. But invariably, his thoughts wandered to Charleston and to Thomas. He imagined Thomas aboard the sailboat Sans Souci, face toward the wind and sun, and headed in no particular direction. Thomas had the luxury of complete autonomy over his schedule. He was not bound to the rigidity of a standard work day. Braden calculated a family net-worth well into the tens of millions…Thomas wouldn’t be needing a day job anytime soon.
He imagined sailing for days together, not worrying, not planning or plotting or scheduling…just sailing and consuming. There would be incredible food and drink, and nights filled with each other, wound together…an ebb and flow, like the very seawater beneath them, an orderly pairing. There was the crash and retreat, the dangerous undertow of Thomas’ affection, and Braden could do nothing but capsize into the dream of it, the beautiful sun-dappled fantasy with clean edges and crisp, white linens.
There was, of course, reality…a return to the actual life in a faraway northern city. Thoughts of Thomas faded into reminders of appointments and bills and laundry, into the ordinary and consistent. Here, there was hard wood and stone, sharp edges and a cold, contemporary style to everything. And, at once, Braden noticed that the life he’d fantasized and the life he lead were polar opposites. Here there was no warmth or light, just the infinite melancholy of marble and speckled granites, the designer furniture and icy chrome.
And, for perhaps the first time in his life, Braden saw himself…a tiny glimpse of the person responsible for this life. And, he realized he’d made his own madness, his own subscribed routine. And he alone could change it.

Later that week, when Marcus and Ben returned from the gym, from the secret glances and the fear of rejection from each other, the dawn was barely gray on the horizon. They drove up to the row houses and parked in the garage. Neither of them noticed the sign in front of Braden’s, which read, Metro Real Estate.

Dec 02, 2005 By Todd 1 Comment