You Don’t See Me - 1. Chapter 1
“You know when people say,
‘I love you. I’d do anything for you.’
Why are they always lying?”
The hotel pool was big, much bigger than Patrick had anticipated, although he had Googled photos of it beforehand in order to have a mental layout of the place memorized in his brain. He wanted—no, he needed—to know each and every exit route, just in case he had to bolt quickly. Unlike his better half, he had never been to this hotel before. In fact, although they owned a condo in the city, it was his first time in Miami altogether. The condo was a birthday gift from his husband, Ford. They were supposed to spend many glorious summers here, basking in the Miami sun. But somehow in the three years since its purchase, the timing never seemed quite right. Their schedules never aligned. Or so that was Patrick’s official excuse. If you asked his husband, he would put the blame on Patrick’s mother, Eloise, for instilling in him a certain type of disdain towards the city. Even though it was known as The Magic City, to Eloise it was “a slum” full of plastic surgery, cocaine and scantily clad women who all resembled the cast of the Kardashians. She was personally horrified when she learned Patrick was a co-owner of any type of property in Miami. But her worries were put at ease when she realized Patrick had no intention of spending much time here. So the condo became a pure convenience for his husband, who now had a place to crash when he was here for work. Personally, now that Patrick was finally here, he had no opinion on Miami. It was a city like any other. And anyway, he was here for just one night.
He ordered a Mojito at the bar then slowly inspected the area. He had to pick the right spot. Something a little hidden away, but close enough so that he could have a good view of the entire pool. It was early afternoon on a Wednesday and although the Miami heat was beaming down strongly the pool wasn’t too packed. There were still a multitude of loungers available to choose from, which worked highly in his favor. The lack of a crowd made sense since this was a high-end hotel with no pool passes available for sale. You had to be a guest in order to get pool privileges. His mom would have appreciated that touch—no riffraff off the street.
He settled on one of the vintage-inspired blue striped sun loungers towards the back. He could easily see the pool entrance from that particular spot. The tortoise shell sunglasses he bought at the airport were painfully digging into the bridge of his nose, but he couldn’t risk taking them off so he simply moved them higher up, giving himself a moment of temporary relief. He put down his book along with a small notebook, phone, wallet and sunscreen—for both body and face. The blue water glimmered in the sunlight, and for a minute he absentmindedly watched the two large beachballs gently floating in the pool, waiting for someone to play with them. Finally he sat down and opened up the smaller bottle of sunscreen and began generously applying it all over his delicate and easily irritable pale face. He had just turned 35, and going without sunscreen was no longer an option for him. Neither was going to sleep without moisturizing, or past 10:30 PM. The pesky crow’s feet carved deep around the corner of his eyes reminded him that he was getting older every single day.
A year ago getting older wouldn’t have phased him much. In fact, unlike many of his friends, he actually looked forward to it. The wisdom, the peace, and calmness that age would bring to life. He would picture himself with his husband, perched somewhere on a cozy couch with a fireplace crackling nearby reading a book or watching a movie together or playing Scrabble. Age would just signify another great year of life spent together, a cause for celebration, not sadness. But lately it was as if Father Time was mocking that ridiculous vision he had of himself being happy and wise. No, age wasn’t his friend, age would be his killer, just as it was everyone else’s.
He opened the other bottle of sunscreen and began to slather it all over his freckled pale skin. The Miami sun would not be kind to his carnation. He adjusted his swim trunks to cover up the unsightly belly pouch he was now sporting. Since turning 35 it felt like no matter how many crunches he did, the damn thing just wouldn’t go away. Or maybe it was the late night food binges when Ford was away on business that were to blame. It didn’t matter anymore, lately he took a somewhat sadistic pleasure in looking worse than ever and seeing if his partner would notice and mention anything. It became a little game to him. Wear the same stained shirt twice in a row, go without a haircut longer than usual, wear a bright yellow sweater. But so far Ford had said nothing. Not a word.
He placed the book right in front of his face in order to obscure himself from view, and then he waited. In the next hour a steady stream of people trickled in. A trio of pretty young girls in bright bikinis took residence on the sun loungers next to him. One of them even threw him a flirty look. He smiled back. It was always so flattering to be noticed by a woman.
“Can you get my back?” she asked, holding out her shimmering bottle of Sol de Janeiro sunscreen.
“Of course, I couldn’t let a beauty like you get sunburnt now could I,” he replied in his gentle yet steady voice. If he had one thing going for him, it was his voice, which everyone adored. They called it “soothing”, and Ford referred to it as a “balm”.
He inspected the bottle and frowned at the SPF number.
“Are you sure 30 is enough? I have 70 if you want.”
“I’m trying to get a tan, not look like a vampire,” she replied giggling.
“Your call,” he replied and spread the oily stuff evenly over her slim back as he admired her thick hair and soft skin. Sometimes he wished he could romantically love a woman—they were such beautiful creatures to him. So sweet, and pretty and delicate. Like a beautiful dessert or flower. Something that’s beautiful simply for the sake of being beautiful and for no other reason. But alas, it was masculine energy that he was drawn to. He couldn’t help it, no matter how much he tried. And boy did he try. All during middle school and high-school. Years of suffering, years of trying to please his parents, years of denying himself. It was in college when he finally threw in the towel and slept with his first boyfriend. And it was at 26 when he met the love of his life, Ford Newman.
It was the way he talked.
No, no, it was the way he moved.
No, not quite right. It was his whole being.
Everything about Ford was fascinating. From his dark brown hair to his lazy smile. It was the fact that he could be so confident one minute, then bashful the next. Patrick loved everything about Ford, even the bad things. And yes, as time went on and the honeymoon period wore off, he managed to discover the bad things. The insecurity, the jealousy, the quick temper. But they were overshadowed by a multitude of good. The generosity, the sweetness, the humbleness. He was a mix of opposite traits and each and every one of them was fascinating to Patrick, because everything about Patrick was plain. Always had been. Plain old Patrick with plain pale skin and plain looks and plain name. It’s not that Patrick felt bad about himself—he didn’t— he just knew that in a sea of people he happened to be one of those that didn’t particularly stand out. He wasn’t ugly, and he wasn’t drop-dead stunning. He was somewhere in between. Average.
That’s why it felt like such a whirlwind romance when he met Ford and they fell in love and got married all in the span of two years. Patrick’s parents had some doubt about the relationship at first. Patrick came from a wealthy background, Ford came from nothing and refused to discuss his family altogether. Eloise questioned his intentions towards her son. After all, he was broke when he met Patrick. But Patrick never felt like it was about the money, Ford never asked him for anything and always managed to stay afloat on his own. However, when things between them got more serious, Patrick’s father decided to step in. Although Ford had no college background, he was a natural at networking and closing business deals. Patrick’s father introduced Ford to a few key people and gave him a nice loan, from which Ford and a few friends started an independent production company: The Newman Company. And although he had help at the beginning, he worked hard to get the company to where it was now, which was in the millions.
“That’s good enough, thank you,” the pretty girl woke Patrick up from his own thoughts.
“You’re most welcome,” he replied and moved back to his lounger. The pool deck was slowly filling up with more and more people.
He checked his phone, a text from Ford, “I miss you my baby. Need to stay here a few more days, we had a productive meeting today but Tom wants to meet with a few more guys in the following days. I’ll be back before Callie’s birthday, don’t worry. I love you.” This was typical of his husband, the sweet sentiments, the pet names, the lovey-dovey tone. Patrick loved that he was a masculine man yet mushy with him. It was highly attractive.
He typed back, “Oh no, bummer! Your children and I miss you. They’ve been acting up, they take after you.” He then sent a photo of two stunning Bengal cats, taken a day prior to him landing in Miami.
His phone chimed back right away, “That’s all on you and your bad genetics, I’m nice and sweet. Tell my girls daddy will be home soon.”
Patrick typed back, “Silk purred slightly louder when I told her, Satin did not care at all. Please be back before Callie’s birthday. Xoxo.” It was scary to him how good he'd gotten at the whole thing—the lying.
Ford replied even though there was no need for a reply. Last year Patrick would haven found it sweet and caring. Now, he knew better. It was a soothing tactic. Soothe your opponent into a false sense of security.
“I will sweetheart, I love you.” Patrick didn’t reply. He sipped on his watered down Mojito and continued watching the people on the deck closely. An older woman made her way through the entrance, wearing a gauche Versace one-piece and bright red lipstick. She threw her bright pink Balenciaga on the lounger closest to the pool. Maybe Eloise was right, maybe Miami did lack grace.
She was followed by two men. The younger one looked to be in his early 20s. He wore pristine white Vans and a pair of skimpy white swim shorts that contrasted with his natural looking tan in the most delightful fashion. A 50s style loosely buttoned short sleeve white and blue shirt gave a peek at his bronzed belly button. His perfect golden hair was illuminated by the sunlight and made him impossible to look away from. He was simply lovely. He exuded sex appeal, youth and beauty, and Patrick wondered what it must have felt like to be him in that very moment. Did he even fully comprehend the effect he had on people?
The man behind him was older, maybe mid 30’s. He was taller and his broad shoulders were housed on top of an impressive torso and natural abs. Not the exaggerated kind, but the hard-working-boy-next-door-who-doesn’t-work-out-too-hard-yet-is-still-jacked kind. He walked slower, his attention on whatever important conversation he seemed to be having on the phone. When they reached the loungers he took out his wallet from the pocket of his black swim trunks and tossed it on the towel, then sat down and continued his conversation.
The old woman dipped her red manicured toe in the pool, made a grimace, then sauntered back to a lounger next to the two men. The blonde one pushed his lounger together to the older man’s lounger, creating one big lounge space. He then made a displeased face at the older man who apologetically stuck out one finger to indicate that he wasn’t going to be much longer.
The old woman opened her purse and dug through it until she pulled out her red lipstick and a small mirror, then carefully applied an unnecessary coat on top of her already bright lips.
“Another mojito, sir?” Patrick jumped up, startled by the sudden presence of the waiter.
“Yes, thanks,” he replied and the waiter swiftly removed the empty glass next to him.
The brunette man finally got off the phone. He breathed out a deep sigh of relief, kicked off his shoes, then suddenly jumped in the pool, much to the delight of the blonde who looked on and laughed. He swam a few laps then got out, dripping wet, his body strong and chiseled. Patrick watched him walk over to the bar and make an order, then walk back and start gently applying sunscreen on the other man’s back.
“Here you go sir,” the waiter came back with a brand new mojito and Patrick thanked him with a generous tip then took a long sip.
“Can you take a picture of us?” the pretty girl whom he applied sunscreen on asked, holding out her brand new iPhone. Patrick didn’t particularly want to get up or be seen at this moment, but he didn’t want to be rude so he took the phone and began snapping pictures. It took a while to get one that the three of them could agree on. By the time he was done, the two men had already gotten their order. A fruit salad, two burgers with fries, and two drinks. Patrick watched as the lovely blonde scarfed down the burger and fries and he wondered how he managed to keep that svelte frame. He seemed to be quite energetic as he waved his hands and appeared to be telling the older man some type of thrilling tale. The other man smiled lazily as he listened, a pair of black ray bans adorning his handsome face.
Patrick finished his Mojito. The older woman braved another trip towards the pool, and this time dipped her whole foot in before she retreated back to her seat once again.
Patrick looked at his watch. He’d been at the pool for a couple hours already. He would need to get going soon as his skin was already prickling with that uncomfortable hot sensation of a slow forming sunburn.
Suddenly, he heard his phone ring. His mother was the last person he wanted to talk to at the moment, but trying to put off Eloise was never a good idea.
“Hey mom,” he answered the phone, trying to sound casual.
“Where are you?” she asked, not bothering with pleasantries.
“At home, why?” he replied, hoping for a sliver of a chance that she didn’t know the truth.
“You must be hiding in the closet then because I’m here and I don’t see you,” she replied, flatly. He sighed.
“You’re not supposed to come in before calling ahead, remember the rules we made? And I’m running an errand.”
“I am calling ahead. This is me calling. And you’re running an errand in Slumville?” Patrick sighed once again, this time deeper.
“How do you know I’m in Miami, mother?”
“Your laptop was wide open, sweetheart, and you don't have a password. You are way too trusting. Are you in Miami with Ford?” she asked.
The brunette man and his younger companion were now canoodling on their self-made lounger. The blonde Adonis placed butterfly kisses along the older man’s shoulder blades and then on his square jaw. Patrick thought it was a pretty bold display of affection, even in a city as open as Miami.
“No, and I would appreciate that you didn’t mention this trip to him. It’s a…surprise.” He could hear the dissatisfaction in her silence. Suddenly he added, “You know when people say ‘I love you. I’d do anything for you.’ Why are they always lying?” He didn't know what made him say it. Perhaps the fact that he suspected she had dealt with something similar before.
“People don’t say that. Men say that. And men, boyfriends, husbands…they do things. Hurtful things. They can't help it. If you’re smart, you look the other way. Let things pass. If you’re stupid, you blow up a good thing. End up lonely, broke, and in the company of 10 cats.” Then she added, “Or 2.” Patrick let that afterthought linger. He still hadn’t decided which route he wanted to take.
“Make sure the cats have enough food for the night,” he said, then hung up. He grabbed his notebook, which was now nearly halfway filled, and jotted “Lawrence Miami Hotel Pool. Jude. 2:30 PM.”
As he looked up he saw that the blonde man was on the move. He was headed towards the restrooms, and some strange internal force told Patrick to follow him. He grabbed all of his stuff and discretely headed to the men’s room located just around the corner. By the time he got there, the blonde man was already washing his hands.
“Hi,” Patrick said, and the Adonis beauty halfway smiled at him, seeming to be slightly jarred by a strange man’s sudden greeting in a public restroom.
“Hi there,” he replied politely, washing his hands with precision.
“Where did you get that watch? It’s magnificent. I’ve been looking for a nice watch for a while now, but I just can’t make up my mind. So indecisive,” Patrick rambled on and laughed at the end. He had learned a thing or two from Ford about making people feel falsely secure. The younger guy seemed to feel some pity for the bumbling idiot accosting him in the bathroom about a watch, because after he dried his hands he stuck out his arm towards Patrick’s face so that he could inspect the watch up close. “It’s a vintage Rolex,” he said.
“Wow, what a beauty. Manual-wind?” Patrick asked, already knowing the answer.
“Yep,” the blonde replied, chipper.
“Datejust…1940s?” now the blonde was intrigued by him.
“How did you know?”
“My grandfather had one. It made it through World War II unscathed. Except for the face, which had to be replaced. It had that same beautiful champagne dial. He passed it down to his only grandson—me.” The blonde man listened on, enthralled by the story. His blue eyes wide open in anticipation. Patrick could really see what the other man must have saw in him. He made you feel like he was hanging onto your every word. Like what you were saying was the most interesting thing he’d ever heard.
“Well then, it seems like you don’t really need a watch after all,” he said, and Patrick laughed.
“I like to keep it locked away and safe. It’s such a precious heirloom that if I was Voldemort and I was creating a Horcrux with a piece of my soul that’s where I’d put it. That’s how much it means to me,” he said, and the blonde man seemed moved.
“Perhaps a new Rolex then? Or a Petek Philip?” he said, butchering the name of the watch manufacturer.
“Yes, perhaps,” Patrick replied. He wouldn’t correct him, it wasn’t in his nature. “Well, thank you for letting me take a peek,” he finished. The blonde man smiled, said goodbye and walked out of the bathroom while Patrick lingered on and looked at his reflection. He looked old—old and sad. He wondered if he ever had that same aura this young man had about him. An aura of youthful nonchalance and fun, or if he’d always been this old and sad.
As he rounded the corner in order to leave, he observed the two men inside of the pool now, throwing beach balls at each other and laughing.
He went back to his hotel room, turned on the TV and picked an old movie. Sunset Boulevard. He ordered room service—a cheddar cheese burger with fries and cheesecake for dessert, his weight be damned. Then he ate while reciting Norma’s lines by heart. Afterwards he cried, and when he couldn’t cry anymore he fell asleep. In the morning he checked out of the hotel and took a Lyft to the airport, where he caught a flight back home to Los Angeles.
“Happy birthday my angel,” Ford said swooping in on Callie who giggled amidst the sea of kisses he bestowed upon her. That was the thing about Ford, when he wanted to, he could make you feel like the center of his whole entire Universe. He was generous with his attention and affection. He handed her a gorgeous and aesthetically pleasing bouquet of pastel flowers as well as dark red gift bag—Cartier.
“Oh Ford, you shouldn’t have!” Eloise exclaimed, grabbing the bag before Callie could even put a finger on it, and Patrick had to stop the strong urge he felt to roll his eyes.
“Mom! Let me do it,” Callie yelled, and the two women began to bicker. After greeting Ford, his father walked off to make himself a drink.
“Cutting it close,” Patrick whispered into his beloved’s ear.
“I’m sorry sweetheart, Tom wouldn’t ease up on those meetings. We got a lot done though. New movie is a go,” he replied so smoothly that Patrick almost found himself believing every word. He then kissed Patrick on the lips.
“Mmm, I missed those,” he said and Patrick smiled at him.
“Oh my God, it’s gorgeous!” they heard Callie yell as she bolted out of her chair and threw herself into Ford’s arms, a gold diamond necklace swinging from her hand.
“Glad you like it,” he replied laughing.
“Let’s go eat, I’m starving,” Patrick said, breaking up the love fest. His parents drove with Callie, while Ford and Patrick drove separately.
“How are the children?” Ford asked, referring to the cats.
“Bratty. They need your strong masculine influence in their life. I simply don’t compare.” Ford laughed.
“Thanks for holding down the fort honey.”
“Are you kidding? No one to share the remote with or to see how much ice-cream I’m eating? It was heaven.”
After dinner they went back home and Ford took a shower while Patrick waited in bed, paralyzed. Was tonight the night? Would he tell him, tonight? Would he end it all, for good? But then the man walked out of the bathroom naked and damp, holding a towel in his hand, and that lazy smile slowly spreading on his face and Patrick couldn’t help himself.
“I missed you,” he said before his brain could even process it.
“I missed you, sweetheart,” Ford replied and threw the towel to the side then lunged on the bed and on top of Patrick.
Patrick wasn’t stupid, he’d been secretly taking PrEP for months now, and had made Ford start using condoms again, citing a weird new allergy he developed, which Ford didn’t understand but had stopped arguing about—for now.
Afterwards, Patrick couldn’t sleep. The bedroom lights were on, and he could never sleep with lights on. So as Ford was snoozing away behind him, his right arm wrapped around Patrick’s torso, the man examined the watch that was now back on his husband’s wrist. A rare vintage 1940s Datejust with a champagne dial. Gifted to him by Patrick, like a piece of his soul that he could carry with him at all times. He caressed the watch with his fingers then gently unlocked himself from Ford’s grip and picked up a notebook from inside the bedside table. He jotted down the words, “Full Intercourse. Ford Initiated” along with the date and time. Then he turned off the lights and fell asleep.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author's imagination and any resemblance to actual persons, business establishments or events is entirely coincidental.
You probably have a crazy and hectic schedule and find it hard to keep up with everything going on. We get it, because we feel it too. Signing up here is a great way to keep in touch and find something relaxing to read when you get a few moments to spare.
Create an account or sign in to comment
You need to be a member in order to leave a comment
Create an account
Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!Register a new account
Already have an account? Sign in here.Sign In Now