The Architect (3/10 – “The Other: A Collection of Doubt”)

“You’re my distraction,” Gabriel says while looking down at his tuna wrap and peeling back some of the thin paper wrapping.

“I don’t know what you mean,” Nathan says acting sheepishly and fidgeting slightly against the hard and poorly designed plastic chair.  The plastic curvature mocks the male form; he feels the alleged lumbar support bend; the spindly steel legs poke through the seat like an attention-seeking child asking impossible questions.

Gabriel leans in closer, touches Nathan’s shoulder with his own, feels the cushion of cashmere and wool, and turns to catch Nathan’s darting eyes, “It’s you I think about when I’m not thinking about anything else.  It’s you that I look forward to seeing in the elevator in the morning.  It’s you that makes me feel giddy.”

“But you’re married,” Nathan admits, taking a long swallow of his pop “shouldn’t you be thinking of her?”

Gabriel laughs slightly and leans in closer, more of each other touch like vertically stacked lumber.  Quietly, Gabriel confesses, “the moment I start thinking about you, I start thinking about her.  You’re in the foreground and she’s in the background.  You’re in sharp focus and she’s rather blurry.”

Nathan stirs his curried pilaf which steams in the thin Tupperware bowl.  He moves the pilaf around the bowl slowly.  He stares at his lunch for a moment then slowly looks up at Gabriel.  “I have a girlfriend.  I think about her.”

“I’d expect you to,” Gabriel says before taking a bite from his Caesar chicken wrap.  “Just because you and I are attracted to each other doesn’t cancel out anything that came before.  Those people, Adrienne for you and Emily for me don’t just go away.  Maybe they just get set aside for a time.   Do you think about Adrienne when you think about me?” Gabriel asks unsure of the answer, though willing to bet on the answer.

“No, not always: It’s not until after that Adrienne pops into my mind,” Nathan offers.

“After what?” Gabriel asks quietly.

Nathan shifts is his chair uncomfortably.  He sits back unexpectedly and then moves quickly forward. “Don’t make me say,” he pleads.

Gabriel takes a long drink from is Diet Coke and sits back in his chair, feeling the white neoprene give way under his weight.  He suddenly becomes aware of the location of his tie and straightens it.

“You do that a lot,” Nathan says looking at Gabriel, then looking down at his cooling lunch.

“Do what?” Gabriel asks watching Nathan.

“That thing with your tie: you’re very conscious of your tie,” Nathan says looking at Gabriel.

“I like things neat,” Gabriel counters, feeling strangely naked, and again adjusts his tie.

“See?” Nathan points out, laughing slightly. “Besides, this is hardly neat.”

“What?  What’s hardly neat?” Gabriel asks feeling suddenly vulnerable and off his game.

“This.  Us. . .I mean, you and me; maybe just me. . .Jesus, this is anything but neat!  This couldn’t be farther from “neat” than if I leapt across this table and kissed you!” Nathan says sounding exasperated.

“All this about my tie?  What’re you talking about?” Gabriel asks, certain where this conversation is going, and absolutely uncertain he wants to go there.

“Listen. . .I don’t know how we got from friends. . .to. . .wherever we are. . .” Nathan says quietly, “but it makes me. . .”

“You what?  What does it make you?  Am I making you anything?” Gabriel says leaning across the table.  “Let’s go. . .” Gabriel says pushing himself away from the table.

“Where?  Back to work?” Nathan asks.

“No.  Let’s go down for a walk.”

Nathan and Gabriel place their dishes on a conveyor belt and walk silently to the elevator.  They press the down button and wait impatiently for the elevator.  “What about my work?  Shouldn’t I call?” Nathan asks.

“You’re with me.  It’s no bother.  If anyone says anything, tell them to talk to me.  Don’t worry about it.” Gabriel says as the elevator doors open.  Gabriel steps inside, but Nathan hesitates.  “Are you coming?”

Gabriel knows that this is a defining moment.  If Nathan steps into the elevator Gabriel will see this as a sign of Nathan’s interest.  The elevator doors begin to close and Gabriel reaches for the “door open” but stops.  The doors continue to close, but Nathan sticks his hand between them.

“Jesus Christ. . .” Nathan says as he steps into the elevator car.

“I’m not forcing you, you know.  This is your choice.  All yours,” Gabriel says defiantly.

The elevator doors close and they look at each other for a moment, then slowly Nathan reaches out to press the lobby button.  Gabriel can’t take his eyes off Nathan standing at the far side of the car, nervously shoving his hands deep into the front pockets of his jeans masquerading any hint of interest.  Nathan turns to look at Gabriel standing at the far corner dressed smartly in a dark blue garbardine suit, crisp white shirt, subtle blue and white striped tie, polished shoes.  Gabriel places his hand into his jacket pocket when he feels himself moving, then abruptly stopping, pressed tightly against the mirrored walls of the elevator car by the dense weight of Nathan’s body.  He looks up moments before he feels the faintest touch of Nathan’s lips teasing, taunting, then finally meeting and opening his own lips, which had partially opened by his surprise.  Nathan presses himself against Gabriel and worms his hands under the tailored suit jacket, over the cotton shirt and up his back. Nathan breaks the kiss and pulls away from Gabriel as the car comes to a slow stop.  The doors open slowly as both of them step into the lobby of the building in complete silence.    Gabriel is at once self-conscious of his disheveled appearance as Nathan walks briskly ahead of him and into the bright mid-day sun.

“So, where are we going?” Nathan asks as soon as Gabriel walks through the revolving door.

“Give me a second to make a couple of calls,” Gabriel says as he walks past Nathan to the buildings overhang.  Nathan waits impatiently, pacing, wondering why in the fuck he did what he just did, but couldn’t, for the life of himself, take his eyes off Gabriel.  Gabriel dials a few numbers, speaks quickly and quietly, then places the Blackberry back into his breast pocket.  “Come on,” he says to Nathan, I know where we can go.”

Gabriel and Nathan walk down Monroe Street east until they reach the front door of the Burnham Hotel.

“You’re taking me to a hotel?” Nathan says, stopping dead in his tracks.

“I know the GM here.  He’s a good friend of mine.  We did the interior.  Yes, we’re going to a hotel, but we’re not just going to a hotel.  You’ll see,” Gabriel says, grabbing a hold of Nathan’s arm, “trust me.”