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  • Shadowgod - Almost Home
  • Shadowgod - Almost Home
  • Shadowgod - Almost Home

Circumstances - 3. Ezra

A man in his early sixties half-humorously remembers a man he knew twenty years earlier.

I don’t know if I wrote about the Evil Dwarf and later threw the piece away to protect his privacy or out of decency. Or maybe I never even wrote about Ezra. In any case, it’s been over twenty years, and I’ve been dead to him for almost that long, so it’s not going to hurt to write now. Of course, I’m not going to get all the details, let alone get them right.

We probably met through a print ad, and I suspect it had to be his because I’d just gotten into town. Actually, not just. I’d met someone else through an ad first and had dated him for a couple of weeks. We even drove to San Francisco for a long weekend, and I was dumb enough to open his car window during a sandstorm. I’d never seen one before and wanted to reach my hand into it, to see what it felt like. Of course, sand got all over the inside of his car, and he didn’t even complain. He was that kind of nice guy. But he wasn’t the man I wanted to spend my life with, and in those days, I was seriously looking for that.

So I met Ezra. It might have been soon before our mutual birthday, or it might have been a few weeks before that. I must have known we shared the same birthday by then, and we probably had plans to go out that evening. But that morning, when I got up and went to go out on the deck, there was a box of chocolate sitting on the ledge outside my door.

Ezra was also that kind of nice guy, if a bit pretentious. When probably his grandparents arrived at Ellis Island at maybe the beginning of the twentieth century, the officials had changed the spelling of his family name from what sounded like sophisticated French to ordinary Italian, and as an adult, Ezra changed it back. His parents didn’t, just Ezra, and I think he was an only child. But if he wasn’t, I no longer remember what spelling his sisters or brothers might have used.

Ezra and I probably first met for dinner. That was my usual pattern on first dates, but I can’t remember the restaurant. It may be been the fairly expensive one he later seemed to favor, or it may have been somewhere else. In any case, fairly expensive to me then isn’t what fairly expensive is to me now, so it might not even have been expensive. It just seemed slick. And if we went to this restaurant, I can’t remember if we ended up at his house afterwards. I wasn’t promiscuous, but I wasn’t shy, either. In any case, my first physical memory of Ezra is that he climbed up me.

I’m kind of tall. He was short. He wasn’t the shortest man I’d ever dated. That honor went to a Truman Capote look-alike some years before this. But I don’t think Ezra topped five foot. Still, because of my height, I don’t use that as an indicator because almost everyone’s shorter than I am. So Ezra may be been five-four, and I was merely a foot taller. And when I say climbed up, I don’t know exactly how he did this. But one moment he was standing besides me and the next he was cradled in my arms.

We were in his dark living room. He lived in what had once been a cottage in the Hollywood Hills and was now about the same size but far more expensive. Typical of Ezra, he’d bought the house but couldn’t really afford to live comfortably in it. I’d met him in February, and the house was always cold.

I remember a dark, book-lined living room, evidently assembled by a decorator. And I remember deep red walls and maybe an ochre dining room, but none of that may have been true. Just as I remember a tall, dark-stained headboard on his bed, or maybe a four-poster. It felt like something medieval. And I can’t remember what he was like sexually, though I know I had more than one chance to remember. I do remember that, afterwards, when I went to clean up, the water was always cold, and he wouldn’t let me run it till it got warm because that would cost too much. Just as he didn’t seem to turn the heat in the house on up past sixty.

He was careful about clothes, too. Once, probably not the first time we were together, also typical of me, soon after we’d come in from dinner, I had him on the floor of the maybe dining room, and he was mostly concerned about his pants. “They’re Armani. They’re Armani,” he kept saying, and I knew that was a designer name, but I wasn’t planning to chew off his pants. I was just going to ease him out of them. Eventually. At that point, I was probably lying on top of him, kind of purposely pinning him with the advantage of my height, but not hurting him. And we were probably kissing. I remember his being a somewhat intense kisser, and at that point, I was probably happy, but he was thinking about his pants.

And his jacket? Had I taken that off first? I probably intended to leave him in just his shorts and tie. That was one of my affectations then, and you can’t even blame it on youth. I was over forty. So was he. That was the whole point. Not only were we born on the same day, but also in the same year. He saw this as destiny. Of course, recently, I accidentally discovered during an Internet search that he was born the day before me and six years earlier, but I can see him writing that off to romance. And we were both born in the same city, if in different boroughs.

But back to the floor. He was so concerned about his pants that I had to let him up to take them off. He nicely folded them and hung them on a hanger in his cold closet, probably along with his jacket. Then he scrambled under the covers into bed.

Was he still wearing his shirt and tie? Did he give me that much? Did he wear briefs or boxers, T-shirts or tank tops? I’m sure he was still wearing his socks and they were black, to match his suit. But were they merely calf-length or did he really wear garters? Nah, I can’t remember him being that affected.

And maybe the reason I can’t remember the sex is because it was obscured by always being in bed, in dim light, under the covers. Even if it was in bright light, if I was under the tent of the heavy covers, I wouldn’t have noticed. As I can’t really remember his body. But I think it was nicely proportioned, and I think there was hair where I liked to see hair, if not any on his head. To balance that, he slept in a tasseled nightcap. I think there was a nightshirt, too, the whole Scrooge outfit, and I wonder if he wore a lighter version in summer. I must have had him naked under those covers, as I remember him shivering naked next to me in the bathroom, trying to clean up after sex. He may even have offered a shower. But while I often find the mix of water and men sexy, not men and cold water. And Ezra never would have let the water run for very long, not even if it came out of the tap steaming. He would have been thinking about the bill.

Once, shortly after we’d both come, there was a slight earthquake, the first I’d experienced. Ezra took that as another destined – if too Hemingwayesque – sign. I was mainly thinking of being crushed by that heavy headboard. He also tried to impress me, possibly while we were still in bed, with the fact that one of Marilyn Monroe’s houses – maybe her first, and not the one she died in – was just down the street. It was presently owned by a quirky supporting actress in a then popular sit-com. Jacquelyn Bisset also had a house down the block, but she seemingly almost never used it, or maybe, again, I’m misremembering.

Ezra also told me of the monthly lunches he had with a small group of male, gay, Hollywood and Los Angeles intellectuals. I must have asked if I could come because he said, “No.” One of the Hollywood stars was still closeted, and he’d never allow someone he didn’t know to join or even observe their group.

I have a feeling Ezra felt I was fairly stupid. He was a chaired, internationally-known scholar, with degrees from prestigious universities, and my degrees were purely state-issued, even if I could match the number and letters of his. He said his previous long-term partner was a grad student, but he wasn’t clear on the details. I thought he said they’d been together for thirteen years, but when I asked if they were still friends, Ezra said, “No, he’s dead to me now.” It seems the man had left Ezra, then come back, then left again, and that was it. Ezra wasn’t letting him back again, even as a friend. I was more sentimental than that, which explains why I’ve never forgotten him, and why I was doing an Internet search, twenty years after. It’s not that I really wanted to see him again. I just wanted to know he was doing well.

And he has continued to do well. He was teaching at the top university in Los Angeles when we met, even if it only offered state degrees. He was offered a presidential commission when Clinton was elected. He turned that down, but maybe soon afterwards move to England. The school he started at didn’t impress me much at the time, but maybe because its name didn’t register. But the one he’s teaching at how is world famous.

And maybe he thought I was dumb because I couldn’t understand his writing. It was on an esoteric topic in dense scholar speak. I’ve always had trouble with that. I worked with my hands. I was a practical man. When I wrote, it was of simple things. He was dissecting things I’d struggled with in college, partly because they were written about so densely. I think of Bill Irwin’s academics as penguins, and that’s how I see Ezra. But that’s more my failing that his. I can’t understand Joyce or Wolff, either, though I appreciate them. And I appreciated Ezra’s knowledge; I just asked why he couldn’t write in simple English.

If he answered me, I don’t remember what he said. I know I took the easy way to end the relationship. I was only in California exploring. I was on seasonal break from my usual job, and I went back to the Midwest after two months, saying I’d let him know if I came west again.

For some reason, he wrote me at my parents house in New York, a place where I hadn’t lived for years. I don’t even know how he got the address. Maybe it was the easiest one to find, even in pre-Internet days. I have an uncommon last name, unlike either version of his. I used to joke that anyone with my last name was immediate family, and you could always call any one of them and ask how I was.

He sent a post card to my parents’ house. Maybe he felt that was less formal than a letter. Maybe he felt it wouldn’t seem like he was intruding. And what he wrote was probably routine, but he signed it “Love, Ezra.” Anyone reading a post card from one man to an unrelated other would know exactly what that meant. And, even in my early forties, even in 1990, maybe because of the AIDS crisis, I still wasn’t out to my family.

I may have casually, convincingly explained it away, or maybe not. In any case, it didn’t set off any kind of situation. I was briefly back at my parents’ house that spring because I was storing some stuff before moving to California.

It was a tentative move. With a born New Yorker’s point of view, I was still positive the state was going to fall into the ocean, and it was just waiting for me to arrive. When a “big one” actually came in ‘94, I nearly slept through it.

By that time, I think Ezra had moved. I did call him soon after I moved to California, only three months after I’d last seen him. I know we had dinner. I can’t remember if we had sex. But I’d known early that he wasn’t the man I wanted to spend my life with. I may have been his choice as a romantic. Maybe it was my height. Maybe the near coincidences. I don’t think it was necessarily my skill at sex. At one point, where I may have been trying to encourage him to date, he said something like, “If I just wanted sex, I could go down to Hollywood Boulevard and hire a hooker.”

I didn’t know you could do that, and I didn’t think I knew anyone who’d ever hired a hooker, male or female. The closest I came to seeing whores was in Times Square. In any case, I couldn’t image Ezra risking the now-increasingly serious disease.

The last time I saw Ezra, he took me to that favorite restaurant. He took me there to propose. After all, I’d come back to California for him. To him. Something like that. At least, in his mind. Actually, I’d gone there to politely, firmly end the relationship.

I knew I was hurting him. I hate disappointing people, but there was no way a comfortable relationship between us could work. I was a tall – from his point of view – good-looking, dumb naked guy. To me, he was, unfortunately, the Evil, controlling, Dwarf.

And I knew I’d be dead to him when I walked out of that restaurant. He told me as much. I’d like to have stayed friends. I like having friends. And I used to think you couldn’t be much more intimate with someone than by being naked with him.

Once there were Internet searches, I easily found Ezra again. I sent him an e-mail saying it seemed things were going well, and I hoped he was happy. He may not even have recognized my name. He’s a minorly important man. I never made it that far or even had the aspirations. At most, I wanted my opinions respected, as a man of some experience. And I had some ability, though in an area he’d probably think so far below him as to be of no importance. Maybe that’s why the grad student lover had left after thirteen years. Maybe that’s the reason the man had still a grad student. With Ezra as mentor, in the same field, the man could probably never compete, and I believe he became a gardener – landscape architect. In any case, Ezra never answered my e-mail, though I would have been surprised if he had. In one of his online profiles, he mentions a long-term partner, oddly, a man who possibly also works with his hands. I wonder if he’s tall.

2019 by Richard Eisbrouch
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