Dates & Calls
Jason was settled in his room watching television. He was nervously flipping through the channels trying to find something good to watch, but due to the lack of cable, he found that task near impossible. He began playing with the idea of popping a DVD in but he couldn’t settle on what to watch. He was debating between collecting his TV show box sets to recreate a night of prime time programming from a time when it was actually worth watching, or something from his overly large movie collection. His head was about to split when the phone suddenly rang.
“Hello?” Jason asked.
“Hey there.” Matt purred on the other end.
“I wasn’t expecting to hear from you,” Jason said with some surprise. “I thought you said you were going to catch up on work all this week.”
“I was, but I can’t concentrate on it tonight. I was wondering if you were up for a movie or something.”
“You want to go out?”
“Yeah. How about it? Can you take a break from movie making?”
“Uh, I think so. What do you want to see?”
“I don’t know. How about we just meet at the theater and decide there.”
“You know I hate going in without a plan. We should really decide now.”
“Ah, come on! Live a little.”
“You call that living?”
“Fine. When and where?”
Matt had instructed Jason to meet him at the largest theater that was geographically between them. It was a large twenty-one screen multiplex in Northridge that had always struck Jason as more of a fortress than a mere theater. The front of the theater was bathed in so much artificial light; it felt like it was the middle of the day as Jason walked up to the illuminated box office. He stood a few paces behind the lines and stared up at the red electronic board inside that displayed all the shows and times. He had trouble reading the numbers without squinting. He saw that most of the movies’ next showings were but a few minutes away and he looked around and saw no sign of Matt.
Jason looked down at his watch and then back around anxiously for Matt. He then felt a sudden heat rising up from his neck. Sweat was forming on his forehead. He had always hated meeting people in large crowds, even if they were friends. He was prone to slight panic attacks in such circumstances. If he had arrived there intent on seeing a movie by himself, it would not have been a problem, but somehow in Jason’s mind he knew that everyone there knew he was supposed to be there with someone. They also knew that he was being stood up. He didn’t know how they knew, but they knew. He could tell in the quick glances he caught from people passing by. As if someone standing around alone was suspicious. Jason realized that Matt was only five minutes late, but he was starting to consider leaving. Just then he felt a slight pressure on his shoulder. He spun around. Matt was standing before him wearing a bright, gleaming smile underneath a slight growth of facial hair over his square jaw.
“You’re late,” Jason said he gently stroked Matt’s cheek. “Soft.”
“Thanks, and sorry. I was hitting all the reds over here. So, what do you want to see?”
“I don’t know. There’s really nothing out now. We’re in that lull between movie seasons.”
“Well, I’m desperate. How about we see the next movie playing. No matter what it is?”
“Oooh. Cinema Roulette. You like to play dangerous. All right.” Matt looked over at the show listings. He leaned forward and squinted.
“Okay. The winner is,” Matt began but suddenly stopped. His face went sour. Jason squinted and saw what Matt saw. A smile stretched across his mouth.
“I know. I know.”
After they got their tickets to the show, Matt and Jason walked into the lobby of the theater. The cool air and thick scent of popcorn hit them both like a train. The lobby was over run with teenagers. Large cardboard displays of future releases lined either side of the large foyer. They walked over and gave their tickets to the ticket takers. Jason slipped his stub in his back pocket for safekeeping. Matt started toward the theater on his left, while Jason started toward the concession stand on the right.
“Where are you going?”
“Popcorn.” Jason said shortly and continued toward the concession stand.
“Wait,” Matt grabbed Jason by the arm. “The movie starts in less than five minutes.”
“The line is a mile long!”
“Popcorn.” Matt rolled his eyes.
“Fine.” They then both took their place in line.
Matt and Jason stepped into the auditorium just as the lights were coming down. There weren’t any other people, so it was easy for them to find good seats.
“Twenty damn movies playing and the earliest one was a Disney film.” Matt lamented under his breath as they took their seats.
“Oh, come on. You loved ‘Princess Diaries’.”
“I never saw that.”
“Don’t try that. I saw your secret stash under your bed. You’ve got the first and second movies on DVD! Well watched too by the looks of them.”
“Shut up,” Matt then grabbed a fistful of buttered popcorn. “But ‘Corn Princess’?”
“It could be good. The girl trying to be the winner at a county fair beauty contest as well as trying to save her father’s corn farm by winning a dance contest and, in the process, winning the heart of the boy of her dreams,” Matt looked at him strangely. “I read a review in Entertainment Weekly.”
Suddenly, Jason’s cell phone started to ring. He stood up and grabbed it out of his pocket. He flipped it open and saw it was from Mike.
“Go ahead,” Matt said anticipating Jason’s question. “It’s not like you’re going to disturb anyone.”
“Hello!” Mike squealed. “Guess where I am!”
“I’m at the movies with Matt. Let’s just cut to the chase and you tell me!”
“Fine. Right now, I’m just about over Syracuse.”
“Syracuse? As in New York?”
“Yes! I’m on my way to London!” Mike said with growing excitement.
“I thought you weren’t leaving until Wednesday.”
“I thought so too, but when I went to see Ivan this afternoon, he surprised me! Cool, huh?”
“Yeah. Great.” Jason said, trying to hide a slight tinge of jealousy. He didn’t want to give Mike the satisfaction.
“Well, it’s not all great. Ivan wants me to meet his mother when we go to France.”
“What’s the matter with that?”
“I don’t do ‘in-laws’ okay? I’ve never really gotten along with the parents of any of my boyfriends, and from what he’s told me, she’s rich, old, very traditional and very French.”
“I’m sure she’ll love you. She’s okay with Ivan being with you, isn’t she?”
“That’s kind of the catch that makes me nervous. He hasn’t told her about me.”
“Does she know he’s gay?”
“I don’t know. Everytime I ask him he deflects.”
“Well, just remember, it doesn’t matter what she thinks. He loves you.”
“He’s a momma’s boy. When you deal with a momma’s boy, the mother’s gotta love you or it’s over.” Mike said matter of factly. Jason was about to open his mouth but then the phone went dead. Jason looked down at the display on his phone and it said that it had lost the signal. With a shrug of his shoulders, he tucked his phone away into his pocket and sat back down with Matt. He saw that the movie had not yet begun and a trailer for some new computer animated movie was on the screen.
“What was that all about?”
“Mike and Ivan left for Europe early and Mike’s nervous about meeting Ivan’s mother.”
Jason and Matt emerged from the auditorium an hour and a half later. Matt was subtly wiping his fingers below his eyes. Jason looked over and tried to stifle a laugh.
“Hey!” Matt said defensively as he caught Jason looking. “I think some salt from the popcorn got in my eye.”
“Sure. Whatever,” Jason said. “This was nice. Just the two of us.” Matt wrapped his arm around him.
“Yeah. I just wish we could do it more often.”
“Well, wish granted.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, my lunch today didn’t go as planned. I ran into Bill.”
“Bill? You’re kidding. What did he want?”
“He wants to direct my movie.”
“And you said?”
Jason turned and looked at Matt with an almost surprised look on his face.
“What do you think? I said yes!”
“You think you can really trust him? How many years did he string you along with his promises and then you wound up writing porno!”
“Look, I know how Bill can be, but it’s different this time. He’s working for me now. I hold the cards. I told him no tricks, no changes.”
“And you believe that.”
“I have to. I was in over my head. I can’t make a movie! I’m a writer, not a producer. I don’t have the know-how or the connections. Bill does. This way, I just hand over the reigns to him and let him deal with all the headaches. He can get the cast. He can get the cameras and lights. I think I’m doing the right thing. It means I’m going to have more time to spend with you. Isn’t that a good thing?”
“Yeah, it is. Sure.” Matt said with some trepidation.
“Yes. Of course it is. I’m just thinking of your movie. I know how badly you want it made and I’m just worried Bill might pull one of his tricks on you again.”
“Let me worry about that.” Jason gently kissed Matt on his mouth. He then heard a stifled gasp. They both looked around and saw a small, dumpy woman staring at them with horror on her face with her hand tightly pressed over her child’s eyes. “Grow up.”
Jason and Matt arrived at Matt’s house. They walked in and without a word between the two; they began kissing and ripping each other’s clothes off. Just as Matt was about to pick Jason up and carry him off to the bedroom, he noticed a red blinking light next to his phone.
“No, I have a message.” Matt peeled away from Jason.
“So? You can listen to it later.”
“It could be about work.”
“This late? It’s probably Ken or something. It can wait.”
“I have to listen to it. I’m sorry.” Matt walked over and pushed down on the red blinking light. An electronic voice came on informing Matt that he had one new message. After a short, high-pitched beep, the message played.
“Hey, Matt! It’s Stew! I know it’s been a long time, but I just moved back out here and thought I’d look you up. How are tricks? Call me back at 818-567-8236. Later.”
“Stew? Who’s Stew?”
“Stewart Heed. He was my best bud in the academy and we worked together on the force for a couple years. He moved back to New Jersey after that. I can’t believe he’s come back.” Matt said as he picked up the receiver to the phone.
“Excuse me, but what are you doing?”
“Calling him back.”
“Now? I believe we were in the middle of something.”
“I haven’t seen him in over twenty years! Just let me try. I bet he’s asleep anyway. I’ll just leave a quick message,” A few moments passed. “Hey, Stew. It’s Matt. Just got your message. Hmm? Oh! Hi, Stew. I didn’t think you’d be up. Yeah. How’d you get my number? Oh, right. I forgot about that.” Matt said happily as he looked over at Jason whose arms were crossed tightly and tapping his foot. “Uh, look, I have to go, but how about we get together? Tomorrow? Sure. You have the address? Yeah, I figured. Great. So, tomorrow at noon? Great. Bye.” Matt looked over at Jason who looked fit to be tied, but not in the way Matt liked.
“Are you ready now?”
“I’m sorry. You know how it is with old friends.”
“I guess. You never mentioned Stew before. How good a friend was he?”
“We were tight back in the day. We’d sneak out after hours to some local strip joints.”
“That was before I came out,” Matt said. “We were kind of the resident partners in crime back then. I think he was more an influence on me than I realized. Things changed after we graduated and started working on the force. We got stuck with different partners and we’d just see each other passing in the halls. We’d go drinking and partying and hung out sometimes. He was the first guy I ever came out to. That was pretty intense. I always felt like there was a change between us after that. That was the last time I saw him.”
“That was when he moved back to New Jersey?”
“Yeah. I was a little crushed because I was so used to him being in my life. We tried to stay in touch for a while, but eventually we drifted. Happens all the time, I know. I never thought I’d hear from him again though.”
“Anything happen between you? You know?”
“What? No. No. He’s straight.”
“Well, some guys switch sides and it sounds like you two had a pretty intense thing going on.” Jason said with an edge.
“Oh. I see.”
“I am not!”
“Oh, come on. It’s cute,” Matt said as he pulled Jason in tightly. “Let me take care of that.” Matt said as he started gently nibbling on Jason’s neck. Jason intended to stop him in order to set the record straight in reference of his supposed jealousy, but suddenly found his power failing him as he melted into Matt’s embrace.