Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Act Your Age Ch 01: New Neighbor

Shane, a directionless 20 year old living with his parents and attending community college, is sitting on his porch one lazy day when he spots Grant a new next door neighbor.  Grant is handsome, older, and successful.  Shane is attracted to the older man, wants to start a relationship but Grant has just gotten out of a long-term relationship with a man and isn’t ready for commitment. 

Worse, he sees Shane as too young, too impulsive, and misbehaved, but when Shane won’t give up Grant challenges him to a little discipline.

With my parents away at work and not feeling like studying or doing my homework from my classes at the community college I decided to take one of my father’s cigars from his office and one of his beers from the fridge and sit out on our porch.  I had my own pack of cigarettes but there was something nice about a cigar every once in a while, especially when I stole them from my father.
It was after eleven, I had just gotten up and had breakfast but I couldn’t go anywhere because my car was wrecked and in our garage taking up the only space.  My mom didn’t want it to be seen by the neighbors. 

The accident was bad enough that I had to walk with a cane and my parents felt it was punishment enough that they barely said anything.  They didn’t want to inhibit my creativity and my own internal agency.  My father was a therapist with his own problems and my mother, well my mother worked in pharmaceuticals.

I had few plans for after high school.  My father had something else in mind when he told me months before I graduated that he wanted me to go to the local community college.  He said I needed more of an education and that education was something that became more difficult later in life.  I thought I would take a few classes and if they didn’t go well I could move on to something else.  What I didn’t expect was to start that summer right after graduating.  When my friends were partying, sleeping late, and goofing off I had to study.  It was almost worth it because I was about to get my Associate’s degree and thinking about where to finish my Bachelor’s degree.

I had been sipping at my beer and smoking my cigar for some time when I saw the two moving vans arrive for the next door neighbor’s house.  The first truck had a hard idle and I could hear the suspension creak when it rounded corners and pulled into the driveway.  The second truck parked on the street.  I thought anyone who used it was at risk of it breaking down, or worse, possibly dying which is probably why I stared to see who would get out of the driver’s seat.

At first I thought there were four movers until I determined one of them was directing the others and dressed more formally, the way adults dress when not at work.  I could tell by the way he moved and talked that he was a rugged type.  I watched him as he moved and talked.  I could tell the other men were movers, used to being ordered around, and that he didn’t fit in with them yet they respected him somehow.  He was the first to open the truck and grab a box.  He worked with the men as they carried everything inside, often grabbing the second half of the heaviest objects.  I watched him as he worked, always lifting with his legs.

He had to be pretty rich to move into a house in our neighborhood but I was surprised when no one else showed.  No wife, no kids, just him and the movers.  I had noticed the ‘For Sale’ sign had been taken down weeks prior and asked my mother but she didn’t know who had bought the place.  She had been spying on the realtors whenever she could, even introducing herself to people who were looking, but I didn’t really expect her to know.  I thought it would be another couple like my parents.
At one point he stopped to catch his breath as I was staring at him, wanting him to do something where I would see some part of his body, the skin of his arm, the cleft of a butt cheek when he looked directly at me and waved.  I thought for a moment that I had been caught and was being signaled in some way but then I thought about the distance between us and I knew he didn’t really know, couldn’t be sure about what I was looking at so I just waved back as simply and insincerely as I could.

They made a second and third trip while I watched.  It was the most interesting thing.  I had already watched a marathon of television the night before.  The cigar went out several times before I gave up on it and I finished off two beers, even had a sandwich. 
After they unloaded the last moving truck he drove away with the movers and I thought it was over until he returned about an hour later in a truck with a bag of fast food and some beers.  I was feeling curious plus I thought him being a single guy who still looked young he might feel some pity for me at the age of 20 and stuck without a car.  I got to my feet and trying to look extra pitiful with my cane I headed over.

The front glass door was closed but the wooden front door was open.  I could see him right away on the couch with an open laptop on the coffee table.  He was shirtless but I couldn’t make out much detail through the glare.  I watched him eat some fries before I knocked.  He was even more handsome than I had thought.  He was older, at least ten years.  He smiled and waved me inside but when I tried the handle I found it was locked.

He got up and moved to the door, unlocked it, and pushed it open for me.  I could see his muscled, hairy chest clearly now.  He had broad, flat pectoral muscles and a washboard stomach but I didn’t dare try to count the abs, though I could see almost everything because he wasn’t wearing a belt so his jeans were loose about his hips.  I couldn’t see the waistband for his underwear.  I felt my face was hot and I was feeling dizzy from the stimulation so I faked a cough and instead I looked up into his eyes.  He looked professional but casual, a five o’clock shadow.  I could still see the whole upper body of him, the way his chest muscles stretched, his biceps flexed, muscles that rippled naturally. 

“Hello there,” he said.

“Hi,” I replied.

There was a smell of cologne and sweat in the air as well as grease and ketchup.   He motioned for me to enter so I did.  He let the door close behind me before going back to the couch.  He was comfortable but maybe a little annoyed by my presence.  I worked my way close to him.  The closer I got the more I felt some kind of energy, an attraction like I had only felt for few other men in my life.  It felt like a tingling sensation on my skin and grabbed at my stomach making me realize I was holding my breath. 

He watched me as I moved and I stared back at him.  A few feet away and by the recliner, I thought to sit but felt it was too presumptuous so I leaned against my cane. 

“How’s it going?” I asked.

“Not bad,” he said.  “Have a seat.  I was just about to get a shower but I thought I would check my email first.”

I moved in front of the recliner, still keeping my eyes on him, and sat.  I could tell it was high quality just from sitting but when I touched it with my fingers it felt great.  I looked around at the walls but they were bare so I looked back to him and his computer. 

“I’m Shane,” I said.

“Mr. Grant,” he said.  “Sorry, I’m being rude, I just am trying to do everything at once.” 

Who introduces themselves like that?  He wanted me to call him Mr. Grant?  What was next, sir?

“Moving in today,” I said.  It was rhetorical, or else he didn’t take the bait.  “I would’ve helped but I got this thing.”

“I saw you on the porch.  Laid up with that cane huh?”

“Car accident,” I said, “nothing big just got a little hurt.  I would have helped but I’m not sure what I could have done.”

“At least you get a day off from high school though right?”

“Community college,” I said.  “And I don’t have class today.”

I was feeling a little irritated by him assuming I was in high school so I decided to show a little courage.  I pulled my pack of cigarettes from my pocket and held them out to offer him one.

“Do you smoke?”

“Sometimes,” he said.  “Cigars mostly.  Do you know a good place?”

“No, I get mine from my father’s office,” I said.

“And he’s okay with you taking his cigars?”

I nodded.

He shook his head before he looked back to his computer.  He moved the mouse a little, clicked on something but he looked frustrated.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“Sorry,” he said.  “It’s just with moving and not having any internet service yet it’s kind of annoying.  There’s an open network but I barely get a signal and I’m trying to download some paperwork.”

I immediately thought to offer him the password to my home wi-fi but then I thought about my parents and worried about whether I could trust him.  I grimaced at the predicament and nodded to show sympathy.  I wanted to help him.  I wanted to impress him.  I wanted to be resourceful.  And yet all of those feelings worked against me telling him because I was afraid to look weak.

It’s no big deal, I told myself.  Just let life happen and it will all sort itself out.  I played with my cane a little between my hands waiting for him to say something else but he didn’t.  I knew I would have to keep the conversation going.

“So what brings you here?” I asked.

“I’m starting a business,” he said.  “That’s why I need these documents.”

He leaned forward, squinted, and something inside of me snapped.

“You could use my parents’ network,” I said.

He looked up to me.

“Really, it’s fine.  I mean you’re getting your own soon.  It would just be temporary.”

He smiled.

“Are you sure?” he asked.

“Yeah, it’s easier if I just type it in,” I said before getting to my feet.  I hobbled around the coffee table and he moved down the couch.  I sat beside him and looked to the screen.  I wasn’t sure what I would find there, maybe a picture of a half-naked man for the wallpaper or something to tell me he was gay but there wasn’t anything there.

Instead there was an empty email inbox and a meter showing how slow the data was being transferred.  I found the network selector, found my parents’ network, and typed in the password, a phrase I had made up myself.  The connection was made and the data rate jumped.

“Hey, that’s great,” he said.

I smiled and looked to him.  He was older than me.  He was more muscled than me.  And sitting this close to him I could tell he radiated masculinity.  I thought for a moment he was straight and that I was being foolish.  I had fallen for straight guys before in high school and my first year of college, befriended them but ultimately the relationships didn’t go anywhere.  How could they? 

“I think I can handle it from here,” he said.

“Right,” I said. 

I looked to his email and saw lots of new messages from lots of different people.  There was a Wendy, a Michael, and a Tom.  I got to my feet and made my way back to the recliner where I sat and looked back to him.  I was feeling he buzz from the two beers wearing off and there was the reminder of sobriety.  I didn’t want it to end and I felt bold enough to ask him.

“So how about a celebration beer?  I saw you bring them inside.”

He looked up to me but he didn’t smile.  He looked angry.  Either because I had been spying or the stupidity to ask. 

“How old are you?” he asked.

“Twenty-one,” I said.

“When were you born?”

I thought about it for a moment before I realized I just had to subtract one year from my actual birth year which I told him.

“You had to think about it,” he said.

“Really,” I said, “okay, I’m actually twenty but I drink all of the time."

“You drink all of the time?”

“I have a tolerance for it.”

He looked to my cane, then up to me.

“I wasn’t drinking and driving,” I said.  “This was sober.”

He looked back to his computer.

“No beer?” I asked.

“No beer,” he said.  “I just don’t think it’s a good idea if you’re not legal drinking age and this is my first day in town.  What would your parents say?”

I let out a sigh and looked to his walls again.  I looked at the windows that didn’t have curtains.  I looked to the boxes.  I could hear cars on the street and children screaming at each other.  Our little moment was over, I had pissed him off, and there was nothing else for me to do.  Gay or straight it didn’t matter.  He didn’t like me.

“Well,” I said.  “I have to get going.”

He looked to me.  I got to my feet and he stood as well.  He crossed the distance between us and extended his hand which I shook.  He smiled and I smiled back.  We had made up but I was still leaving, he was still escorting me out.  He walked with me to the door where he opened it and ushered me out, then closed it behind me.  I turned to him and waved before turning away and heading back home.

Chapter 2 , Chapter 3 , Chapter 4 , Chapter 5 , Chapter 6 , Chapter 7

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