André D. Michaels © 2019
All Rights Reserved
Half an hour before Club Sandwich closed, Cabot McCrae knew he wasn’t going home with anybody. Once again, he’d sat in the corner, nursing his two drinks, eyeing the crowd for someone, anyone, who might be worth pursuing. And once again, as the ice cubes melted in the glass, he sat and did nothing while the few who drew his interest paired up with others and went off into the night. One or two drinks were sent his way, but the guys who sent them seemed creepy and stalkerish, and Cabot declined as politely as he could.
How the hell do guys find each other?
People talked about what a meat market this bar was, but if so, then Cabot was definitely not USDA Choice beef. Maybe not even leftover bologna.
“Thanks, Hank.” He dropped a five on the bar. Hank gave him a casual salute.
The cute Italian busboy didn’t even meet Cabot’s eye. The burly bouncer barely grunted as Cabot left the club. The darkness and cold, relative silence outside brought relief from the flashing lights, steamy heat, and pounding bass inside.
Cabot got in his car and checked his phone. Ring me, said the text from Lloyd.
At 1:45 in the morning, Cabot wasn’t about to call his best friend. He texted back: In the a.m. Beat, dude.
Immediately, Lloyd texted back. Understood. Hope you made out.
Cabot smiled grimly and started the car to head home. No, I didn’t make out. I never make out. Nobody wants to make out. But he wasn’t going to text that to Lloyd, either.
Lloyd always got lucky at the drop of a hat. He’d slept with more women than Cabot could count. He even juggled several girlfriends at a time, managing somehow to keep them all happy and coming back for more.
Not Cabot. He hadn’t gone on a date in—how many months? And he and good ol’ Rosie Palm were better acquainted than ever before.
The lights of the warehouse district behind him, he pulled into the garage below his apartment complex and parked the car. He sat there for several minutes, running his hands over his face. People tell me I’m cute, he kept repeating in his head. But he sure didn’t feel cute after one of these nights. No one talked to him. No one approached him.
No one wanted him.
His phone buzzed. Another text from Lloyd: Sweet dreams dude.
Back in his apartment, Cabot showered and padded naked into the kitchen. The blue calla lilies he’d bought himself were withered in the vase on the table.
He could have another drink. And unlike drinking at the bar, getting drunk at home wouldn’t make him go home with somebody he’d be embarrassed to wake up next to. Well, unless you counted waking up with yourself.
He virtually never wore clothes around the apartment. Nobody could see in. Nobody came to visit except Lloyd, and Cabot usually remembered to pull on some shorts or sweats when Lloyd visited. And when he didn’t remember, Lloyd didn’t care. Why would he? Lloyd was straight.
And besides, since he didn’t get much sex with anybody else, being a nudist at home gave him easy access to the one man who always enjoyed his lovemaking: himself.
His phone by the door buzzed again. Jesus, Lloyd, give it a rest already.
The text read: Yo dude, call me, man. Really.
Okay, that was scary. Cabot hit the call button.
“Hey,” said Lloyd’s sleepy voice.
“Hey. You okay, bro?”
“Sure. Kinda. No.”
“Okay, that’s three answers. What’s going on?”
“Just flirting with the nurse, man. He says I have to talk to you later.”
“Whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa. You’re flirting with a male nurse? What the hell is going on, Lloyd?”
“What? He’s cute.”
“Uh…you’re straight. What kind of drugs do they have you on?”
Lloyd sighed. “Just c’mon to the ER, man. Central MC. They’ll release me if I have a ride.”
“ER? What the fuck happened?”
“Tell you later. You gonna be my ride?”
“You got it, man. Be there in like five seconds. Four point nine.”
Cabot grabbed his keys and wallet and headed for the door, and then remembered he should probably put on pants. He pulled on a pair of basketball shorts and shoes and grabbed a clean shirt out of the drawer. No waiting for the elevator; he took the stairs.
It took more than four point nine seconds, but he broke a few speeding laws and maybe a law of physics or two on the drive to the hospital. And there Lloyd sat, sitting in the ER with a big goofy grin, his arm in a sling.
“Jesus, dude, what the fuck did you do? Beat off too much?”
“No such thing,” laughed Lloyd. He was obviously on some potent painkillers. “Naw, just fell out the window.”
“You did what?”
“Fell out the window. Didn’t you ever fall out the window?” Lloyd waved to the nurse across the room. “Hey, Anthony! This is Cab. Cab’s not into me.”
“What? Told you he was cute.”
Anthony—who was indeed cute—approached. “A minute ago he was asking me out himself.”
“Jesus, I’m sorry.” Why am I apologizing for him?
“’S okay, he’s my ride.” Lloyd threw his good arm around Cabot’s shoulders and leaned his head against Cabot’s. “You’re my best friend, I ever tell you that?”
“Oh, only like fifty times a year since we were twelve.”
“Not enough. I love you, man.”
“Those are some strong drugs.” Cabot slipped his hand around Lloyd’s waist. In his current frustrated state, Cabot found the proximity of his friend’s body more than a little disconcerting. “C’mon, let’s get you to the car and then you can tell me this window story thing.”
“Bye, Anthony!” Lloyd hollered over his shoulder as they left, blowing a kiss.
“So now you flirt with guys too? Never mind. Just get in the car. Let’s get you home.”
Lloyd let Cabot buckle his seatbelt, and then leaned back and stared at the moon roof. “I was trying to fix the dish,” he said as Cabot pulled out of the hospital lot. “You know how it loses signal. And I guess I leaned too far out.”
Lloyd laughed. “That’s the funny thing, I wasn’t. Just came from Ma’s. She says hi.”
Cabot had practically grown up with Lloyd’s family. He’d probably slept at Lloyd’s more often than in his own bed. Or maybe the opposite was true. Until college they’d seldom slept apart. Lloyd stayed at the McCrae house, or Cabot stayed at the Radowsky farm, almost every single night from sixth through twelfth grades. They’d slept in the same bed at the McCraes’, but on the farm Lloyd slept in the top bunk while Cabot slept in the bottom.
College separated them, but in the age of Facebook that didn’t mean much. They still talked, instant messaged, tweeted, texted, Skyped, and poked each other throughout the day.
“So what’d you break?”
“Collarbone. And wrist.”
“Jesus, that sounds painful.”
“So they tell me. I got a prescription to pick up tomorrow.”
“Fuck that, I’ll pick it up for you.”
“Dude, they’re going to want ID.”
“Okay, fine, I’ll take you to pick it up.”
“Hey, you missed the turn.”
“No, I didn’t.”
“Dude, my place is that way.”
“You’re not going to your place. You’re staying with me.”
“Cabot,” Lloyd said—not a reproach, more like a blessing.
Cabot shrugged. “Best friends, right?”
“Forever. For. Fucking…” Lloyd dozed off.
Cabot shook him a little. “Not yet, Sleeping Beauty. Almost home.”
“Home.” Lloyd grinned.
At the apartment, Cabot got Lloyd into the bedroom. “You need to use the little boys’ room?”
“Hey, nothing little here,” Lloyd protested. “Ask any of my exes.”
Cabot chuckled. He’d seen Lloyd naked often, in the locker room or at the swimming hole on the farm. The man told no lies. Cabot had always been envious.
“Okay, fine. Let’s get you ready for bed.”
“Dude, I’m not putting you on the couch.”
“No, you’re not. But I’m not putting you on the couch, either. I have a double bed. It’s not like we haven’t shared a bed before.” He started unbuckling Lloyd’s belt.
“Okay,” said Lloyd amiably. “Just don’t like molest me or anything.”
“Dude, molesting your hairy ass is the last thing on my mind right now. Besides, your Ma would kill me if I tried.” He slid Lloyd’s pants and underwear to the floor. “That shirt should come off. Not gonna be easy.”
“Do it now before the painkillers wear off.”
“Okay.” Carefully, Cabot extracted his friend from the snug T-shirt he wore. The caption on the shirt read Basses go deeper.
Naked now, Lloyd let Cabot ease him back onto the bed and cover him up. “Night ma,” murmured Lloyd.
“Night, honey,” murmured Cabot. He kissed Lloyd on the forehead. “Sleep tight.”
“Don’t let the bedbugszzzzzz….”
And Lloyd was sound asleep.
Cabot went back to the kitchen and got that drink he’d poured—what? an hour ago? He stripped and sat naked on the bed, sipping at it, gazing at the sleeping face of his best friend.