The Book of Joel — Prelude, Chapter One

Posted by on Feb 27, 2016 in Book Chapters

Book Chapters > Gabriel’s World Extras > Gabriel’s World Home

Prelude

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche said, He wonders also about himself—that he cannot learn to forget, but hangs on the past: however far or fast he runs, that chain runs with him.

C.S. Lewis said, For the present is the point at which time touches eternity.”

*** ***


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Hackensack, NJ 7:33 pm

Carson Smith arrives at his apartment, his mind still on his job even after picking up some take-out dinner and having a drink at the bar of the restaurant. Carson is an auditor for the New Jersey Comptroller’s Office; he’s been reviewing the State Division of Development. As per protocol, he had first brought the information he discovered to the chief procurement and land use officer in the DoD. But he’s still thinking of who else may need to be approached, as he’s sure there’s serious corruption involved in what he found. He hasn’t yet discussed the matter with his supervisor.

Carson tosses his keys on an end table and brings the take-out bag to the kitchen without turning on any lights. His mind is too deep into his situation. A very small kitchen light is already on and giving some faint illumination. He leaves that one on all day to discourage housebreakers.

It’s only when he comes back into the living room to check his home phone for messages that he becomes aware he’s not alone.

Someone is in a chair in his apartment living room. A huge figure, blurry in the darkness. No, blurry because he’s in black and has a hood on his head.

Carson freezes halfway across the room. The figure gets up slowly. It’s like a mythological beast rising from a pit. Carson is 5’10 but this person is much taller. And bigger. In the faint light Carson can barely make out any eyes showing through the holes in the hood. The hood is squareish and large, and drapes over the man’s shoulders.

“Ah…ah…” Carson can’t think of what to say. Is this a home invasion? Does it work like that?

The figure lifts a pair of glasses to the hood and fixes them to his face. As if he’s about to read something. Then from somewhere in the black clothing he produces a gun. A very large gun—it looks like two feet in length. Carson doesn’t know it’s a WTS .50 BMG pistol and utterly impractical to use in a home invasion or anything other than stopping a tank coming at you. He only sees it’s a large, large gun pointed at him.

The man speaks slowly. “If I shot you, you’d bleed out in 30 seconds. But most of your internal organs would be destroyed anyway.”

“What do you want?” Carson tries not to sound scared or aggressive. He has no idea how to handle this.

The giant seems to stare down at him. “I like to look at them bleeding out,” he says contemplatively.

Carson imagines that he will in fact be shot. Something in the man’s posture gives the impression that he really, really wants to do this. Carson tries to reconcile to dying. It’s okay, he thinks to himself.

“Just tell me why.”

The man tilts his hooded head as if he doesn’t understand what Carson is saying.

“Why you’re going to kill me. I have a right to know.”

The man moves the gun up and down in his hand. “You don’t have to die. Listen to this. You have one chance, one opportunity. You won’t see me the next time. You’ll just see the blood and brains bursting out of your mouth before you hit the sidewalk. Do you understand?”

“Uh, uh, what? What am I supposed to do?”

“Stop looking into things. Stop asking questions. Just do your job like a good bureaucrat. Keep quiet. Put in your twenty and retire. That doesn’t sound so bad, right?”

The man moves closer to Carson. Close up, he blocks out everything, becomes a black void. He puts the gun to Carson’s head. “What do you say?”

“Yes…whatever. Whatever.”

“Down on your knees.”

Carson sort of edges down to the floor. He looks up at the gun. The man nudges him with the large rounded end of the barrel.  

An impossible time goes by with the man just touching the gun to Carson’s head and staring at him. So it seems behind those glasses.

Finally the man moves away. “Just so you know, this applies if you tell anybody, anybody, anything about your recent investigations. About tonight too. I still kind of hope you fuck up. I’d like to see if this would make your head actually explode. Or your chest. The head would be better for visuals, but the chest—it would be large enough to see through. Yeah, you could put your hand through the hole before you die.”

The man chuckles to himself. Then he moves away. Carson hears the door of the apartment open and close.

It takes him ten minutes to be able to stand. He has to use an ottoman and another chair to drag himself upright while shaking uncontrollably. Then he runs to the bathroom and throws up. He can no longer eat; the to-go bag stays unopened on the kitchen table.

Every time Carson thinks about who he might call for help, he pictures the big man coming back. And his blood exploding from him in the graphic way the man described.

At two in the morning he composes a resignation note for his supervisor.

*** ***

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Wayne, NJ 1:00 pm

 

Gloria McFadden, a blonde in her late fifties, sits across the table from the older, taller man. Larry Meese, a longtime family friend. She’s pleased to see him. Although she’s an attractive woman, his demeanor towards her is nothing less than proper and respectful.

“Gloria, it’s been some time. I’m glad to have a chance to talk to you.”

Her smile is slightly higher on one side of her face, a quirky charm. “Larry… I hope it didn’t bother you that I asked you not to tell Ken.”

“Of course not.”

They’re interrupted by the waitperson and give him their orders. Then Gloria says, “I had a couple things I wanted to talk you about.”

“Certainly.”

“Ken is worrying me. He’s been difficult lately. I think something is wrong at work. He won’t talk to me about it…does he ever mention anything to you?”

Meese has years of experience in not letting anything show in his eyes or his face, except what he wants others to see. “No, not that I can think of, Gloria. But you know, as I know, working for the state has its pressures.”

“I guess…but still, he’s drinking more and that’s saying something. I try not to be one of those ex-alkies who are judgmental, but he’s really sunk into himself. I’m afraid he’ll crash.”

“Let me see if I can find out.”

“Thank you, Larry. The other thing…well, it’s so strange…”

“I’ve heard it all as a cop. I still hear strange things in the Sheriff’s Office. Don’t be worried; you can tell me.”

“Well…this is another thing I can’t talk to Ken about right now. You’ve read the stories about the dead women who were found in Union County? The serial killer?”

“That guy Mathers, yeah. Glad it’s in Union; my office doesn’t have to handle him. It must be a pain.”

“Larry…when I read the stories about the private investigator who found these women…Joel was involved.”

Meese face changes. So subtly, Gloria can’t see it. It’s as if the last 17 years fell away just hearing the name. “What?”

His voice is off, but she doesn’t notice. “He seems to be some kind of assistant to this New York City detective. I looked for more about it online…he was working with this man in upstate New York too. Something about an arsonist in Rochester.”

Meese puts on a sympathetic expression; his mind is still reeling. “My God, Gloria. To see that after all this time…”

“It has to be him in the stories. Larry, since I started recovery I’ve had some time to think. John Dell helped me a lot with that. I want to find Joel. His birthday just passed—he’s 33 now! I want to tell him I’m sorry. Even if he doesn’t care, just to tell him. Look what he’s doing—he and that detective. He may have made something good out of his life.”

She has a hint of a smile on her face. In her handbag is a picture from a New York Herald-Standard story, in which Joel is standing next to Gabriel Ross. She’s been taking it out during the day and looking at it, when Ken isn’t around. Thinking of the picture makes her smile.

Meese smiles too. But he’s thrown. His mind clicks and whirs. He almost grabs the tablecloth in his fists. “Gloria, I know what you must feel. But now…Joel…he did that terrible thing to you and Ken back when. I didn’t approve of Ken throwing him out—you know that. But he was on his way to being a criminal. And I have to warn you—private investigators are sleazy. They’ll pretty much do anything to make a buck. I wouldn’t think this New York PI is some kind of hero.”

Gloria draws back at his tone of voice. “Larry, he’s my son. I want to know what Joel is doing, who he is.”

Meese immediately adjusts his attitude. “Sure, sure. You’re being a mom. Look, I can check some of my sources, see what I can find out. Just take it slow right now. You don’t want to rush into anything and get hurt.”

“Okay,” she accedes. “I appreciate it. I just want to move forward in life now. It’s why I want to know what’s going on with Ken, too.”

“Of course, of course. Just—as a friend who cares, don’t do anything without checking with me first, right? On either of these things.”

“Yes, I’ll hold off until you find something, Larry.”

After lunch, which Meese rushes through, he goes back to his SUV and just sits for a while absorbing the news.

He’s not sure what he feels but he knows he must, must get a look at Joel.

 

Chapter One

Bertrand Russell said, Man, in so far as he is not subject to natural forces, is free to work out his own destiny. The responsibility is his, and so is the opportunity.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Canal Street, Chinatown, New York City 12:35 pm

Larry Meese was able to find out where Joel lived. Law enforcement personnel have access to all kinds of databases. After talking to Gloria he combed everything he could to find Joel. He’s surprised by what he finds. He had once made an attempt to find Joel after Ken threw him out, but was unsuccessful that time. Eventually he thought maybe Joel was just dead.   

Thinking of that makes him angry at Ken again like he was years ago. Ken was so fucking stupid. More than that. He had no right to make that decision.

Anyway…Joel was not entirely off the radar between 1993 and 2011, but he wasn’t high profile either. But Meese can figure out the basic story from information dating back to 1995, 1997, and then this year.

Meese checked out that private investigator, as well. Ross has a record. However, he seems to be on the up and up in the situation with the serial killer. Why Joel was working with him—who can say. Maybe because Ross is a New York boy and happened to use Joel for his Jersey knowledge. Joel was doing a good deed. That makes sense. Joel would do that. Hopefully Ross didn’t take advantage of him. Ross is probably some sort of egotistical troublemaker who likes his name in the papers. Let him try that crap in Passaic County…

Meese gets even more information by checking on international travel.  He finds out Joel has a passport. Law enforcement may find out passport information from the US Passport division of the State Department—if an official request is made on the enforcement agency’s letterhead.

On the other hand, if you have a career’s worth of contacts you can get information without having to document in the proper channels. Favors mean favors in return. He has spent many years obtaining such contacts.

Now he really has a new window to Joel’s life. Joel has been traveling to Europe, South America, Asia and other areas of the globe since he was 19.  At least 3-4 times a year.

With anyone else, such international travel might raise red flags. Drugs. Smuggling. Arms. But the law enforcement records show Meese a more logical reason Joel travels.

Now Meese is standing across the street from the New York City apartment Joel bought. He knows what the apartment is worth. Amazing. Joel isn’t around right now; he’s in Australia. Maybe he’s still doing what he did before. Or maybe he just has money. Joel is smart enough for that.

Of course. That’s why Meese chose him in the first place, so many years ago. If Ken hadn’t fucked his life up, Meese has no doubt that Joel would be eternally grateful for the mentorship. There would be benefits…

But don’t things happen for a reason? This can’t be coincidence. Meese goes back to New Jersey and waits until Joel returns to New York City. Since Meese has a full time job, slipping away to NYC isn’t that easy. However, he takes sick leave and spends his time watching the building until finally, the following Friday, he sees who he wants to see.

There he is.

Joel exits the building on Canal Street and walks west. Meese begins following him. He doesn’t get too close. But he’s close enough to take note of how Joel has so much the same build, the same presence, of what Meese remembers.

Joel’s destination is an art supply store. Now Meese has to be careful, but Joel isn’t paying attention to other customers. He’s focused on what he wants to buy. And so, with basic disguise of cap and sunglasses Meese is able to see Joel’s face for a few seconds here and there.

It’s a shock. All though he knows Joel is 33, it’s hard to reconcile the maturity. Joel in no way looks old. Unless you’re imprinted on a 15 year-old boy.

This could be enough to just leave. Leave him. He’s not who he was.

Meese stares at him. Almost enough to make Joel turn. Joel looks up and around, as if feeling the stare. Meese moves outside the store and across the street to be able to see him again.

Joel is back on the street now. He pauses to check his phone and his expression changes. Something pleases him and he smiles. Meese almost smiles with him. He follows again as Joel makes his way downtown to Union Square to a store called Forbidden Planet. It sells graphic novels and action figures.

He still likes that stuff.

The boy is still in him, then. Maybe he hasn’t really changed.

Meese can’t really see him clearly, but the hazy view through the darkened window of the store on Broadway is like his fantasy. And in some strange psychological maneuver the fantasy acts as the proverbial goggles or glasses. It takes away the maturity of Joel’s build and face and replaces it with Meese’s memory from 17 years ago. The one that was so wrongfully interrupted. The one Ken owes him for.

The question is what to do. How can he manipulate things to bring them together again?

*** ***

Monday, March 14, 2011

Canal Street, Chinatown, New York City 11:05 am

Isabella tells Joel: “Remember, it’s a magazine cover story on hot artists in the city; it’s perfect to talk you up. The writer is new; he’ll be as scared of you as you are of him. Don’t fuck it up or I’ll castrate you.”

“Good luck with that. Are they really interested in the art?”

“Yes; we talked about that. The story is about five NYC-based artists. You’ll blow the rest of them away. Yeah, you’re on the cover because of the press with Gabriel’s cases, but so what. It’s what puts asses in the exhibits. So give him some juicy details. People who don’t even like art will read the feature on you because it has the crime backstory.”

That fact doesn’t make Joel feel any more comfortable about the idea. When he hangs up with Isabella he can’t concentrate. He just wanders around his loft studio nervously, with a feeling of dread.

Joel has an artist’s insight to human nature. He has additional insight due to his past experiences. But the hardest person to use insight on is one’s self. Joel has been in survival mode for so long that any other sense of being is similar to wearing a Japanese Noh mask between him and the world…and the survival mode impedes insight to himself.  

However, he recognizes that he’s in borderland between past and present, and that’s why he’s rattled. This borderland developed around the time he met Gabriel a few years ago and anchored in him during the last year with Jan. It’s new territory. It has patches of sylvan glens but also contains land mines.

Most of the paintings on the walls of his loft are new—reflecting this borderland. The older ones are covered with drop cloths. The old stuff seems disconnected.

Six paintings are from the time he spent with Jan. All are large, at least a 12 in French standard canvas size. He was inspired from some vintage postcards that Jan had collected and adapted those styles to some surreal images. A car on a night road with figures hiding in trees. A beautiful woman on a beach, the sun on her back, water flat and glossy. Tiny creatures approach her in reverence. A vine with symbols he’d found in old books from Jan’s library.

Isabella, his agent and de facto publicist, didn’t want him to hang the new ones. Like his recent foray into sculpture, the newer paintings sell better, reflecting a maturity. The older ones can sell, but to those who like a little rawness, bluntness, streaks of emotion. Or nudity, which is why the ones of Gabriel have found buyers. Nonetheless, he wants to see the new ones on his wall because they remind him of Jan.

When he walks over to gaze out the window at Canal Street he hears a faint rustle. He glances over his shoulder but no one is there. He starts to look back to the window and something moves in his peripheral vision. Now he turns around. No, it’s just imagination. Stress. No one’s here, no ghosts. Stress from the pending interview is agitating his senses.

He wishes Gabriel was here; Gabriel handles interviews with perfect ease, good press or bad press. But Gabriel is with his therapist this morning. He’s still dealing with grief. Joel deals with grief differently. But they both honor the dead.  

Over the last couple days, he and Gabriel went to visit several graves. Gabriel’s former clients Raymond and Toni Booth (they took Toni’s son, Adam, with them) and then their friend Giselle’s grave in Elizabeth, New Jersey. They met Giselle’s brother there.

A few of the women whose bodies they found last year were not able to be identified or family wasn’t located. Joel paid for them to be buried properly, not in a Potter’s field. They go to visit those women too. Gabriel also wanted to see Leonard Mathers’ grave. They took Bob Jarvey, one of Gabriel’s close friends, and Edward. Edward (under the identity of his other self, Sophie Faulkner) had been arrested for Leonard’s murder but Gabriel’s work demonstrated Sophie’s and Edward’s innocence. At Leonard’s grave Gabriel plays Possente Possente from Aida. Leonard would have appreciated that.

Kent Varney, a vital source for Gabriel in the Booth case, is interred in a mausoleum in Bethesda. Gabriel has flowers sent there. He has told Joel he plans to go to DC to visit Kent someday. Joel has a feeling Gabriel often talks to these dead persons, as he talks to his mother and uncle as an imaginary sounding board.

The reporter, Matt Chagall, shows up finally at the loft. He’s accompanied by a freelance photographer. Joel greets them with a charm he knows how exude. Matt is a tall, sandy-haired sinewy white man around 30. The photographer, Barry Mecca, is black, a little older than Joel but about his size, with long braids in a ponytail. He is carrying a Yashica camera and various accoutrements.

Both men compliment Joel on his loft, which looks a lot nicer since he bought some furniture and fixed it up. Of course, his paintings are the most significant part of the loft, along with his various sculptures interspersed along the walls. He also has shelves overflowing with equipment for painting, sculpture, and computing.

Joel is grateful his close friends Veronica and Geneva insisted he furnish the place as soon as he and Gabriel came back from vacation.

Barry begins taking photos of the loft with Joel’s permission. “Hey, Joel, can you stand by the paintings? Yeah, that looks great. The sun is hitting you just right….On your sofa now. Just casual. You look good casual.”

Joel follows the directions without comment. Barry continues his patter to put Joel at ease. “These brick walls are good too. I’m going to lean one of the paintings here next to you—this one, is that okay? Great. I can see you’re kind of reluctant for photos.”

“No, I’m fine. I can see you’re good at this. You have an eye.”

“I try. You’re a terrific subject, don’t be reluctant—or maybe go ahead. It gives you a mysterious aura, with your arms folded like that. Ah, but there’s a nice smile, there.”

“I guess you’ve worked with kids before, then.”

Barry laughs. “You’re not that bad.”

Matt, following their banter, tries to act in a similar vein but comes across like he’s a little out of place. “I’m still kind of new at this for the Herald Standard. I used to write for the Philadelphia Inquirer culture section. But I love covering the New York art scene. Isabella—I mean, Ms. Karimi, is doing interesting things with you. Anything new going on right now?”

He’s setting up his laptop to type while they talk. His voice is strained from trying too hard to be buddy-buddy with Joel.

Joel feels strained as well. The façade he had at first is starting to wash away as if he’s standing in a rainstorm. “Off the record, there’s a licensing place that wants to use some of the paintings for posters and that type of thing. I want to keep control over what I do, so I’m looking into licensing myself.”

“That sounds pretty complicated.”

“Isabella would seek out the buyers. I’m getting a Chromira Digital to make the prints.”

Barry whistles. “That’s a nice machine, at 60 grand.”

“Oh yeah, Clark Ahn says to say hello,” Matt adds, when they both sit on Joel’s sofa to actually start the interview.

“How is he?”

“Good. He has a lot of nice things to say about you and your, ah…”

“Boyfriend.”

“Yeah, I wasn’t sure. I didn’t mean to be offensive.” Matt grins nervously, typing fast in his computer to try to cover his embarrassment.

“Takes more than that.” Joel smiles.

Matt begins the interview in earnest, discussing Joel’s theory of art, his themes, working with Isabella and her virtual/traveling gallery. With that, Joel becomes less self-conscious, and keeps the attention of both men in how he talks about art—intelligently and with a passion.

Matt then switches gears, and asks him about the criminal cases in which Joel was involved. “I talked to Clark about Don Mathers…looks like he might be going to trial at the end of the year.”

“I believe so, yeah. Is Clark going to cover the trial?”

“Yeah, he’s keeping track of everything. Does Gabriel have to testify?”

“Yes. He and I both are going to.”

“Wow, I can’t even imagine, knowing what he’s done…

“Oh, yeah. Whatever it takes to bring him to justice. I don’t have a problem with that.”

“It’s a wild story, Clark says. And the Governor of New Jersey sent Gabriel something?”

“Some letter came from his office, robo-signed. The Governor does not appreciate LGBT rights, you know, and yet we helped the criminal justice system enormously, including with overseas contacts to assist the women who were released from captivity…I don’t want to go off on that. But believe me, Gabriel spent tons of time, even when he was recovering from almost being burned alive, to help those women.”

“Wow. And the organization where Mathers was working, they’re having a public relations nightmare.”

Joel nods. The Women’s Freedom Network was dealt a blow from the discovery that Don Mathers, Leonard’s brother, was a serial killer and trafficker. He had been working at the WFN as its assistant director, under another name. One of the WFN’s senior staff, Seth Monroe, has since left to run the legal advocacy department of another anti-slavery nonprofit, Humanity Unchained.

“It happens. Eventually people will forget. That’s the good thing and the bad thing. People forget. They forget the bad, so people can move on. And they forget the good, so people have to prove themselves over and over.”

But Monroe didn’t forget that Gabriel helped find out who killed the WFN’s former director. He got Humanity Unchained to talk to Gabriel about assisting in investigating other slavery cases. Gabriel has been in discussion with them on and off about that. It’s a much different use of Gabriel’s skills, but he is very interested in it.

Matt says, “I’m looking forward to what Clark comes up with. He’s looking into Mathers’ background.”

“Gabriel has helped him with that some. But a lot of Mathers’ case is international.”

“Because of that other guy—the professor. The one who was deported. But with the international aspect, Alex Barclay has been helping Clark on that…oh.”

Matt has stopped, seeing Joel’s face change again. “Do you know him? Alex Barclay? I guess I shouldn’t be talking about this, but when I spoke to Clark, Barclay was there—he just got back from England, I think, and he was really talking up Gabriel’s skills. I got the impression…”

Joel wants to rolls his eyes, but keeps control. Barclay. Fucker can’t get over the fact Gabriel broke up with him because he wanted to get back together with Joel.

“Guess he didn’t talk me up, huh?” It’s sarcasm, of course, and he’s barely aware he actually said it out loud, but he’s surprised when Matt answers seriously.

“Um, not in detail. He did say you had an interesting past. Oh, yeah, he said I should ask you specifically about your career before you started working with Gabriel. So what’s that about?”

This time Joel smiles regardless of the anger that rises in him. Barclay would do that. He thinks it makes a difference. Fuck you, Harry Potter…Wizard Editor, Intrepid Reporter, Sore Loser.

“I think he has me confused with someone else.”

Matt types some notes and then says, “Oh, so, about your work, you didn’t sell much, or rather didn’t promote much, until recently, right? Ms. Karimi said she’s been trying to get you to show for years.”

Joel suddenly feels guarded. Almost as if shadows were growing on the wall behind him. “Yeah,” he says shortly. “I mean, she has been selling my stuff on what you’d call a casual basis. I just finally figured it was right to…”

“Go big time?”

“At least just have a show, I suppose.”

“Were you always artistic?”

The change in topic from his art to himself throws him. “I guess. My childhood was…rough. I’m sure Isabella told you I lived on the street for a while.”

“Yeah, that must have been a rough experience. How long were you on the street?”

“From age fifteen to eighteen, more or less.”

“And then, did you find something better?”

“Odd jobs, on and off.” He folds his arms, feeling the tension rise, then unfolds them. Be calm.

Matt nods. “Sure. Nice to have success now. I mean, I heard you have a following already.”

“Is that right?” Joel smiles at the idea.

“Yeah. So people are naturally interested in knowing more about you, where you come from.” Matt runs his fingers in his hair, trying to smile like Joel does. “Um, you know, I thought it would be a good part of the story, overcoming challenging circumstances, beating the odds and stuff. I wanted to get some perspective—I talked to Ms. Karimi, to a person who runs an LGBT youth center who knows you, I talked to your mom…”

“You did what?!” Joel jumps up, startling both the other men by his ferocity. The reaction on their faces make him sit down, and think quickly how to cover this outburst.

“I spoke to your mother this morning.” Matt eyes him cautiously. “Okay, I guess you two aren’t close. I mean, I’m sorry. I really wanted to write a good in-depth human interest story about you…”

Joel gets up again and paces the room. No wonder he was feeling like a disaster was in the making. He digs out his cigarettes. He should quit, since Gabriel has. As much as he lectured Gabriel about it…But now they serve a purpose—to give him something to focus on.  Focus. Focus. He needs to focus. “Yeah, yeah. I understand, I got you. No, we aren’t close. It’s no problem.”

He stops, suddenly feeling punched in the gut and overwhelmed with a strange feeling he can’t categorize. “Can you tell me what she said?”

“Uh…okay. Well, I asked if I could talk to her about you, and she said she shouldn’t and she sounded like she was going to hang up. Then she asked what the story was going to be about. I told her, and asked her if she had read the other news stories about you. She said she read about when you and, uh, Gabriel found the women in New Jersey…She kinda asked me what I knew about you. Which, you know, is the bio I have from Ms. Karimi. That was it; it wasn’t a long conversation. Oh, she asked if you worked with Gabriel, and you do, right?”

“Yeah. I did. I do, sometimes.” Joel turns from the window. “Thanks for telling me.”

“Um, sure. Did you want to talk about this or anything?”

“No, I don’t. Not a big deal. This isn’t part of the interview, the family thing, okay?”

“Yeah, okay.” Matt seems a little shaken. “I didn’t mean to upset you…”

“You just walked into something unexpected. No worries.” Joel smiles, trying to look sincere about it. “Seriously, okay? You’re cool.”

Matt cautiously begins another line of questions, and Joel answers while his mind goes elsewhere. Tumbling, falling into space. A part of him wants to run screaming out the door.

Gabriel will be over soon. Just get a hold of yourself.

Joel asks to take a break. While Matt and Barry engage in work-related banter, Joel walks to his kitchen. He lights another cigarette, his hands trembling.

Then his phone buzzes with a text. Gabriel. Thinking of Gabriel triggered him to reach out. That happens between people who are very close, although when Joel calls Gabriel just before Gabriel is about to call him, Gabriel pretends it unnerves him.

My love, you are taking confidence in what you do, who you are?

Joel writes back, —Sure.

A pause. —Remember what I said the night we met? Where you should be?

Joel thinks about it. Not too hard, as he remembers every detail of his time with Gabriel from the second they met.

In the Winter Garden. The Winter Garden is an atrium in lower Manhattan that has a spectacular view of the Hudson, high-toned shops, and some exotic flora.

It’s a favorite place of mine. It has a beauty and grace befitting you. You are there now, metaphorically. This experience only recognizes that.

He’s trying to help Joel be less anxious. After therapy, Gabriel is coming over to the loft to talk about a case Joel is helping him with tonight. But here and now, at the moment, Joel uses Gabriel’s words to keep himself calm.

He picks up a black Moleskine notebook. He bought it on impulse last December. He’s been hesitant to write anything, but every so often he gets an urge. So after a moment, he starts making notes of things running through his mind. He thinks about when he and Gabriel met.

 

Copyright 2014, 2016 Alex Fiano

Page updated 2/27/2016