Y cuando los vi, algo brilló/And when I saw them, something shone
Algo de ti, que había olvidado/Something from you, that I had forgotten
Un Rey y Un Diez, Manuel García
He took the long road. After going to the pharmacy, where he staid a few more minutes talking to that sweet girl -who's name he keeps forgetting-, he crossed the street and went straight ahead for another block. Then he turned left, instead of right. He went on for a few blocks until he reached the park, entering it. It was November, and the days were growing colder, but that paricular day was pleasently warm, altough clouded as it could be. He walked for a few more minutes and then took a seat in a bench near the pond. There were no ducks, but it was still a beautiful picture. He rubbed is tired, old legs for a moment, then sat still.
There where no leaves in the trees, and the grey sky reflected in the water giving the scene a touch of melancholie. During his last years, after both their retirements, they had both enjoyed to do this kind of things: search for beautiful places, and enjoy them for as long as they could. They had even traveled to Egypt once, and been in the pyramids -something that almost gave them both a heart attack, or a heat stroke-. Now he was keeping up with the tradition, enjoying things for both of them.
A few minutes later, half an hour perhaps, a boy, no older than sixteen, slowly aproached. He stopped a few feet away and coughed, politely. The old man turned around.
- Excuse me, sir. Do you mind if I sit here? - the boy asked.
- Not at all - he answered with a smile in his wrinkled face.
The boy had spoken with an accent, and had slightly long black hair, olive skin and dark brown eyes. Mediterranean, he decided. He was wearing black trousers and a black shirt, blue sneakers, a grey short coat, a pair of black leather gloves and a light grey beanie hat. There were white earplugs hanging from his neck, from which came the sound of some indie song, and carried a black bag, hanging loosely from his left shoulder. The boy sat by his right, took his gloves off, throwing them into the open bag, and then took a sketch book out. Of course. No young, attractive boy would spend his Saturday afternoon sitting next to an old man, in a bench in the park, unless it was to do something, like drawing something nice.
They both sat there, in complete silence, the faint sound of traffic and the whispers of the wind the only sounds. He, staring straight ahead at all times; the boy, drawing, then staring, then drawing again, almost no sound coming from the meetings between pencil and paper.
- You shouldn't be here - interrupted the boy, his eyes glued to the page. He turned to look at him. - At least not alone.
- Boy, at my age, we're all alone.
Their gazes met, and Ben could see a fire in those eyes. Not an angry one, like most, but a serene, spiritual one, one that said peace and knowledge. He'd seen that fire, a few times before. He had it. It was a beautiful thing. Although his had been something different, since his had been an old soul, while, he could tell, this boy's was a new one, hungry and impatient, playing games just so he could know more about the world, about himself. Ben smiled.
- But not really, at the same time - he went on, then returned his gaze to the pond. - I'm not sure if you know what I mean.
- I think I do - the boy said, a tang of hesitance in his voice. - My grandma once told about it, a few years ago. But that does't mean I understand it. I guess I'm too young for that.
- Yes, you are. But don't worry, you'll understand, when the time comes - he stood up then, with no little effort. - Good bye.
- Good bye. Have a nice weekend - replied the boy. Then whispered - Ben.
Home, sweet home. His apartment was in the 10th, and last, floor of a very modern building, all metal and glass, the same place he'd been living for the last, what? 40, 50 years? To his right there was the kitchen, in front the living room, and to his left there were the bathroom and the rooms. Four rooms: his and his, the one that once belonged to Teddy, the other one that belonged to Greg, and the library/office. Most of the walls were a light shade of gray, while the rest were all a not too dark, nor too light blue. The furniture was modern, iron and glass, but the bookshelves and some of the decorations were old, classic looking. They had both put a lot of effort when the time to decorate had come and, honestly, it had been nightmarish; he remembers, they had fought a lot, probably the worst crisis after the whole Greg's junky-boyfriend matter. But at the same it had been a fun experience, even the part where they slept with the mattress on the floor and the next morning their backs were all sore.
He left the keys on it's place, next to his, and then walked into the kitchen. He emptied the two plastic bags onto the kitchen table and put the food in the fridge. Taking his pills and a glass of water with him, he went to the library.
These, were the only walls in the apartment that weren't grey or blue. They were a dark shade of brown, the same as the wood of the bookshelves and the one of the two, side-by-side desks. There was a window in one of the walls, with dark green curtains, and a chimney next to it. The chimney had been what convinced them to purchase the apartment; yes, it was a great place, with a beautiful view, but the chimney made it perfect. In the middle of the room, right in front if the desks, there were four black leather armchairs, placed in pairs, two in front of the other two, and two green foot lamps and small glass coffee tables, in between each pair. In one of the desks was a phone. Ben entered the room and walked towards the phone. A bright, red 3 blinked in a small screen. Ben left the pills and the glass in the wood surface, then pressed a button.
"You have three new messages", a female, robotic voice announced. "One". A small pause, then a female, young voice spoke. "Hey, grandpa. It's Becca. I was calling and you didn't pick the phone up, like always". Ben smiled, like always. "I was wondering, do you have my soccer outfit? The one from when I was, like, 7 or 8. 'Cause I wanted to show it to Raj, but I don't know where it is. I've already asked dad and grandma, so I figured you have it. I'll call later to ask again, in case you forget it, but if you don't want me to, just send me a text, OK? Bye, grandpa. Love you!"
He fished his cellphone out of his pocket and turned it on. He ignored the nine missing phone calls and the two messages. His favorite granddaughter always came first. Ben quickly typed: "Yes, sweetie. I have your soccer gear. U can come for it next weekend & I'll have it ready for u". He thought about it for a second, while the second message started to play. It was from Rick. Then he typed: "How bout u bring Raj with u? I'd like to meet that boy of yours. Love u, B". Then he hit the send button. Rick was asking him to go to this ex-colleagues meeting while Ben approached one of the bookshelves and scanned it, looking for a particular book. Where was that damn thing? Oh, yes, right there. Rick said "Good bye" with a cough and then the third message started.
"Hi, Ben. It's Matt. Just calling to know how you're doing. Haven't heard from you in like two weeks. And you're not answering my calls. Again. If you really don't want to hear my voice, then text me, you ass." Ben laughed, softly and sat on one of the armchairs, turning the lamps next him on. "Or e-mail me, I don't know. If you don't show any signs of life by tomorrow, I'll go to your place and kick you old ass, you hear me? Love you, big brother." He smiled and rested his head against the back of the armchair. Unlike Hal, his older brother, Matt had a certain ease to say things like that, to people he cared about and loved, whether they were male or female, family or friends. He became a good man, with a beautiful, kind wife and two good-looking, intelligent sons with families of their own. Hal, like him, never had biologic children, since Maggie, his wife, never got pregnant. They adopted, instead, two beautiful and sweet girls, now women.
His cellphone "bip" in his pocket. "I'll be there next Sunday. And yes, I'll be there with Raj. Can't wait for u 2 to meet. Good night. Love you, B", was Becca's reply. Ben nodded to himself and left the electronic devise in the coffee table. Then he opened the book where he had left last night's reading. It was The Virgin Suicides. His favorite book. Although why, Ben had never figured it out. It was a good book, yes, no doubts there; but somehow, it didn't semeed like his.
He read slowly, like his dad had taught him, tasting every word, every hidden meaning. He went on, word by word, page by page, for at least an hour. Then, while turning one page, something fell from the book to his lap. It had been right between the last page of the fourth chapter and the first page of the fifth, where Ben left his page-marker, leaving the book in the coffee table while eyeing the object. It was a picture, with the white side facing up. Ben took it in his right hand and turned it. A soft, longing smile grew in his face.
It was them. They were young men in the picture, both pale, and about the same height, one blonde and the other brunette, wearing black silky robes. They were kissing, their eyes closed, and he could see a few people in the back smiling and clapping. They had been "college sweethearts", the only gay ones he'd ever known of, and they were in their graduation. Classic Literature. Jimmy almost didn't make it.
Memories started to fill his mind. He could remember him, in his fortys sitting in one on those leather armchairs, reading Asimov or King, while he was writing like his usual maniac. He could see themselves, inverse possitions, him reading, Twain or Tolkien, Jimmy writing, or maybe editing a manuscript. He remembers their first date; he'd been so nervous he'd puke a few hours earlier, and could barely stand to look at food, while he had been his usual hyper, curious self. He remembers their weding and how dried his throat had been. Remembers dancing with him in hotel rooms and friendly living rooms. Remembers laughing with him, fighting with him, crying with him. Being happy with him. He remembers his touch, his voice, his always flirty attitude towards him, no matter how old they were turning. He remembers his witching blue eyes.
His eyes started to swell with tears.
When he woke up, in the armchair, still holding the picture between his fingers, he felt slightly lost, yet peaceful. He took a look at the room, trying to place himself, when he saw him. A smile crept through his face, of both awe and glee.
He was sitting in the armchair in front of his, legs crossed, hands resting in his lap, head resting against the leather behind him. He looked exactly like he did the first time they met, and was wearing the same clothes he had, including the dirty black combat boots. He had a smile that reached his eyes and his dark brown, long, slightly wavy hair framed his pale face perfectly. Cancer took him from his side, eight years ago, but he was there, no older than twenty.
- James - he greeted. The smile grew wider.