Today is my last therapy session with Ezra - Duane meanly calls him “Hairy Lip” because of his bushy ginger-moustache. It’s kind of a bittersweet moment for me: Sean has been seeing me through the good and the bad for the past ten years. He knows my deepest, darkest thoughts, thought that Duane isn’t even privy to because the idea of knowing some of the things rolling through my head would scare the shit out of me - and probably scare the shit out of him too.
Before Ezra I only saw women therapists: I feel more comfortable around woman. With most women I can express myself, be at ease. I’ve never had a woman, at least not yet, tell me to suck it up buttercup or boys don’t cry, be a man. Not even my mother, as neglectful and unstable as she could be, told me those things. But a lot of men have. Most of those were my mom’s boyfriends who she brought in like the strays you see rooting around in the back alleys of Manhattan City. At twenty-one, the same year I cut Mom out of my life, I decided it was time to make some changes, really challenge myself. I didn’t just want to talk about my issues: I’d been doing that my whole life. Talking, getting in touch with my inner feelings (I’d been in touch with them for too long; stuck with them more like), and coloring pictures had only got me so far. I wanted to hit the issue at it’s very core, ruin its ugly face with a sledgehammer. Because the truth was this: I was, and still am, afraid of men - which is confusing because I myself am a man, and a gay man at that. It had taken years of therapy just to realize this. So I requested a male therapist and I got Ezra.
Ezra was a breeze of fresh air: He was perhaps the first sensitive man I’d met and he was straight. I remember the first day I came into his office, twenty-one, angry, nervous, and tense as hell, the man lifted his leg and farted, something any therapist in their right mind wouldn’t do. Professionalism and all. But it did what it needed to: it broke the ice with me and I found myself immediately taken with him.
First I tell him today is our last session. The surprise on his face is unmistakable.
“I know it’s sudden - very sudden,” I say, feeling guilty, “but Duane and I bought a lighthouse.”
His bushy eyebrows rise behind his glasses. “A lighthouse?”
I nod, unable to stop myself from grinning.
“Are you shitting me?”
I shake my head, breathing in the smell of the vanilla candles Sean keeps on his bookshelf. This is the last time I’m going to smell it.
“No, I’m not shitting you.”
“But isn’t that what you’ve always dreamed about?”
“It is. And that’s why we’re leaping for it headfirst.”
“Where is this lighthouse?” Ezra shifts in his chair, clearly intruiged.
“Never heard of it.”
“It’s this little island in the middle of Casco Bay. It has a private college. Duane is trying for a job there now - he just sent in his resume. They have a newspaper.”
“So you’re just going to get up, leave your job at the New York Times, pack your things up, and move to this little island, into this lighthouse?”
I frown; I don’t like the increduous sound in Ezra’s voice. “Yeah, why not?” I say with a shrug.
“It just seems a little...impulsive,” Ezra says. He hastily adds, “I’m not trying to cramp on your dreams or anything - do what makes you happy, achieve your dreams. But I think by now, in the ten years you’ve experienced enough life changes to know things in life aren’t what they seem. The grass always looks greener on the always side but once we get to the other side we discover there’s just a little brown mixed in with the green.”
“You’re right,” I say. “I have been through a lot of shit. My mother was a pill popping drug addict who popped pills while she was pregnant with me, constantly brought in men, always in rehab. I’ve been molested. I’ve been in and out of institutions. I’ve been homeless, slept on the streets. I put myself through college and didn’t have anyone else to help me. The few people I had in my life looked away and pretended as if I didn’t exist. And through all that I got through college, published a book which is on the bestsellers list, work at New York Times, and have a boyfriend who loves me. I’m stable. So why not do something impulsive just because?”
“I agree. I just want you and Duane to make sure you both have an escape plan should things go south.”
“We do. Duane’s keeping the loft since it’s paid off and my boss gave me a standing ovation at work. He says if I should need to there’s a job waiting for me. So things will be fine. I’m excited.”
“Good,” Ezra says. “I wish you the best.”
I can’t tell if it’s just me but Ezra sounds a little sad.
On my last day at the New York Times, a week before Duane and I are supposed to make the move to Adermoor Cove, a party is thrown in my mind - the kind of party in which anyone under twenty-one is not invited.
Perry Bosch, my boss, has gone all out: catered food of all kinds - Greek, Chinese, and Indian, - booze, a DJ, red party hats, a banner with my name that says FAREWELL, JUDE!
At four o’clock I pull on my jacket. I’m wearing a red party hat and I’m quite drunk. I feel gushy inside, half happy, half sad. I want to cry but can’t bring myself to let everyone see my tears. In one hand I have a plate piled with cake with styrofoam wrapped around it, in the other a bottle of Pinot Noir.
“Hey, Jude, wait up,” Perry says, shouting over the music - “Show Me How to Live” by Audioslave, one of my favorite songs is blasting through the speakers. He has a cigar made of bubblegum sticking out of the corner of his mouth. “I wanted to make sure I give this to you.”
He hands me a marble plaque. Engraved on it in bubble letters it says JUDE TAYLOR: THE BEST DAMNED EDITOR EVER!!!
“This is all customed made,” Perry says. “Everyone in the department chipped in to have it made.”
“Oh fuck,” I say, something I probably wouldn’t have said if not for the intoxication. “I love it.”
“We’re going to miss you,” Perry slings an arm around my shoulders and pats me on the back. “With you leaving this place is going to lose a lot of color.”
“Oh fuck you, Perry,” I say, laughing. “You would say something like that. Trust me I’m going to miss you too.”
I wave at everyone, blow kisses, and then I leave. I’m glad to be out of the room: I feel hot and emotional. I’m ready for this bittersweet day to be over. I’m ready to be at our lighthouse in Adermoor Cove just so I don’t have to say good bye anymore.
Duane’s waiting for me, leaning against his Jeep. “Hey there, Party Boy.”
“Hey,” I say. I sling an arm around him, Pinot Noir in one hand, cake and plaque deftly balanced on the other, and kiss him for all the world to see.
“Did they have strippers in there?” he asks, taking the cake and plaque and opening the car door for me like the galliant gentlemen he is.
“I wish,” I say. “That’s okay, I got my own personal stripper.”
He closes the door, climbs in and studies me for a moment. Despite the fact that I’m smiling he sees the truth behind the smile. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I just hate saying good bye, you know? I know it’s not really good-bye. We have the loft still, so it’s not like we’re never coming back, but it feels like good bye.”
“I know,” he say. “But it’s also an adventure.”
“And we’re long due for one. Are you ready Batman?”
He takes my hand. “Ready, Robin.”
He hits the gas pedal and pulls away from the curb. I give one last fleeting glance at the New York Times building and it feels as if it’s the last time I’m going to see it.
Today is the day we leave for Adermoor Cove.
For the last week Duane and I have been going through things, deciding what we want to take with us to Adermoor Cove and what we want to leave here. So far there’s at least three boxes full of books, a box full of plates and cups, and another full of pans, and a box full of framed pictures. Most of the stuff going into the lighthouse will all be brand new stuff. We’ve already owned new furniture through an online catalog. It will arrive a few days after we get there.
For Duane the loft has been his home for ten years and mine for six. The one room space with the kitchen alcove and attached bathroom has so many pleasant memories; and even though I know it’s irrational, I’m afraid we’re going to leave it all behind. I’m also conflicted with excitement. We own a lighthouse now, just like I always wanted.
I remember the first time I came over to the loft. It was a few days after I got out of the hospital after fainting in his office. He’d invited me over for dinner. I think he felt bad. I remember feeling nervous, not knowing what to expect. What we were doing was a big risk for the both of us, just meeting up for dinner. If anyone found out about it could ruin his career and get me kicked out of NYU. Yet there was a part of me that couldn’t resist - I wanted to know what the place looked like, and more so, I wanted to know why he wanted to have me over. It had been raining that day, rainwater flooding the gutters. I’d shown up at his doorstep soaked and cold despite taking the bus.
The first thing he did was lead me into his bathroom and so I could change into some of his clothes - a T-shirt and a pair of jeans, both which had been way too big on me. I remember standing in the bathroom with the door open, taking off my wet-heavy clothes; I knew he was watching. I was setting him up, something I know was manipulative and maybe even unhealthy, borderline. If he knew he was being manipulated he didn’t try to stop it. I remember I was getting ready to put my T-shirt when he gently turned me around to face him.
That night we had sex together for the first time - it was also the night I lost my virginity. I’d lost my virginity at twenty-four years old. Some guys go hogwild after their first sexual encounter like that, or, at the very least they want to experiment. Not me. On that night I knew I wanted to be with Duane and only Duane.
After we load the boxes into the back of the Jeep we eat a quick lunch: turkey sandwiches of Nature’s Own bread with Colby-Jack cheese, alvacado, black olives and light Maynoise, and baked Lay potato chips.
“Having any second thoughts yet?” I ask.
“No,” he says immediately. “You.”
As Duane takes our paper plates to the wastebasket I look around the loft. “No,” I say after a moment, breathing a sigh of relief. “None at all.”