Luggage & Fix Ups
Ken was hunched over the keyboard of his computer. His eyes were intent on the screen before him. He had spent most of the day at home working on spreadsheets and proposal forms for work, but he had decided to take a little Internet break and had found his way into the chat rooms on HOMO.COM. He had intended only to observe the other chatters, but the urge overtook him and he had made out his own profile and was smack dab in the middle of the San Fernando Valley room. There wasn’t much going on in the main chat, but Ken was juggling four separate instant messengers. All four were pretty much the same. They were all in their mid thirties, they all were professionals who enjoyed outdoor activities and dinners with close friends, or that special someone, at least that’s what their profiles said. Ken was just jumping from one conversation to the next. All four discussions were surrounding mundane topics such as weather and each chatters’ dislike for their work. Eventually, almost at the same time, the chat turned to more personal matters. First the question if Ken worked out was asked by all four chat mates. He had barely gone to his gym in the months following Greg’s departure, but Ken lied anyway and said that he worked out at least three times a week. This impressed his new cyber friends. Then came questions of his physical measurements. Ken again fudged a bit. He gave his height honestly, but he shaved a few pounds off his weight.
Then the final, most important, question was posted. Whether or not Ken had a picture to share. Ken felt a slight chill run down his back. He was beginning to feel a stir in his lap from his talking to the four online strangers and wasn’t looking forward to popping the bubble. He took a gulp of air and realized it was bound to happen at some point. He told them all yes, and transmitted his most recent picture to them all. Time passed. Beads of sweat began to form on Ken’s forehead. ‘They must be having trouble downloading it. It was a pretty big file.’ Ken thought to himself. He asked if MANSTUD69 was having any trouble with the file. No answer. He then tried XXXBEERCAN, again, no reply. Ken’s fingers were starting to wiggle over the keys. He decided not to tempt fate with the other two and just let them simmer. Just as he was about to close out of the program, a new line of text popped up in MANSTUD69’s chat window. Ken’s heart began to race. He scanned the line of new text but then his heart sank a little. Apparently Ken wasn’t MANSTUD69’s type. A polite way of telling him he was repulsive. Ken quit out of his Internet browser without so much as an obligatory good bye. Ken knew in his head it was just on-line flirting. Nothing to be taken seriously, but in his heart, any rejection, however small, stung like a thousand knives.
He was still feeling vulnerable since Greg walked out on him, also with no good-bye or even explanation. Ken had been going into the chat rooms more and more frequently over the past few months. He was soon a veteran of the whole thing. He had the lingo and shorthand down pat. He knew the dance quite well. The only problem was he just wasn’t that good at it. Just as the onset of full force depression began to take hold of him, the front door of his Van Nuys apartment flew open and Mike came barging in.
“I have been trying to call you for over an hour! What the hell is wrong with your,” Mike stopped suddenly when he saw the computer was on and Ken had his head down. “Oh. Cruising the chat rooms again?” Ken slowly nodded his head.
“What are you doing here?” Ken asked as he picked himself up and took a deep breath.
“You said I could borrow your luggage, darling. Remember?”
“Oh. Right. I forgot. Sorry.”
“I didn’t want to barge in here like this, but Ivan and I are leaving on our trip in a couple days. I’ve got to start packing if I’m going to make that. Oh. Kenny, boy! Can you believe it? I’m going to Europe! I’m actually going! And not alone like some loser! I’m going with my boyfriend. My actual, ‘been together for a whole year’ boyfriend! I never thought I’d see the day.” Mike said in a breathy, happy tone.
“Neither did I.” Ken said brusquely as he pushed past Mike towards his bedroom to retrieve the luggage in question. Mike shot a hard sneer at Ken as he passed, but Ken would hardly have cared even if he had seen it.
“I don’t like the tone, missy.”
Ken opened his closet and up on the top shelf he saw his gold seal Samsonite leather cases. He had bought them years earlier at a time when he had been going on several extended trips for his firm. Ken had decided that a good set of luggage would be a good investment. After he bought them though, his trips had ceased and he was stuck with a set of luggage that nearly set him back a clear grand with no place to go. He had played with the idea of going to Europe himself. He had secretly wanted to go, although he never told anyone, due to the fact everyone simply assumed every gay man dreamed of going to Europe and he didn’t want to play into any stereotypes. He really wanted to go though, and that luggage was going to go with him, but that was a long time ago and the dust that was building on the luggage was becoming noticeable.
He reached up and pulled the largest case down. A cloud of soot drifted down with it. He grabbed the other two smaller bags and wiped off the dust. Ken then carried all three bags out to Mike who was waiting anxiously to take them in his hands.
“Oh wow! They look great! Like they’ve hardly been used.” Ken ignored his friend’s jab.
“Look, I’m sorry okay? It’s not like I planned for my relationship to be going so good while yours, well, while yours crapped out.”
“It’s okay, Mike. Really. I don’t give a shit anyway. What good are boyfriends anyway? They just add this unwanted pressure into your life. Someone you always have to look good around. Someone you’re always self conscious around. Does he love me? Do I love him? Please. I’m much more comfortable just being single. The way God intended.”
“Wow. Someone’s been getting drunk on the bitter juice lately.”
“Not all of us can land a fashion mogul like you.”
“Are you implying that I’m only with Ivan because he’s rich?”
“I’ll have you know that I would be just as happy with Ivan if he were poor. The fact that he is rich is just the biggest, best surprise in the world.”
“Look, I’m sorry. I’m just still shook by Greg. I am happy for you and Ivan. I really am. Maybe even a little jealous.” Mike’s steel features softened and he lovingly took Ken in his arms and hugged him gently.
“Oh, honey.” Mike cooed. “Of course you are.”
Mike cradled Ken in his arms and then released his embrace and looked Ken straight in the eyes.
“Look, serious, okay? It really is killing me seeing you such a mess. How about I fix you up?”
“A fix up? I don’t know.”
“Why not? That’s how Ivan and I met.”
“No it’s not. You hooked up in a bath house.”
“I know. We’re just telling everyone it was fix up. It’s so much more romantic, don’t you think? So, how about it? A little fix up?”
“I don’t think so,” Ken said. “Oh come on! There’s this really cute guy at the restaurant who’s just as desperate and hard up as you.”
“I didn’t mean it like that, but since the cat is out of the bag.”
“Is he really cute?”
“Babe, he is hot! I mean if it weren’t for Ivan, I’d be camping out between his legs right now.” Mike said.
“What’s his name?”
“Ramone Del Cruz. He’s very sweet. A little shy since the divorce.”
“Divorce? From a woman? He was married to a woman? He is gay right?”
“Darling! Why do you think she dumped him? Don’t worry. He’s totally down with the man on man thing. When do you want to do it?”
“I didn’t agree to anything. Yet. I have to think about it.”
“Fine. Think.” Mike said as he handed Ken a piece of paper. He looked down at it. It had a phone number and the name Ramone scrawled across it. “I told him all about you, so he won’t be too surprised to hear from you.”
“You gave him my number too, didn’t you?”
“It may have found its way into his pocket.” Mike said impishly.
“I appreciate it. I really do.”
“I love you, you know that. We all do.”
“Love me as much as your luggage, right? Well, my luggage,” Ken said with a smile. “I know. I’ll be okay. You go on. Enjoy my luggage. Enjoy Europe!”
“I will. Thanks.” Mike then gave Ken a light kiss on the cheek and sauntered out.
Mike came driving up to Ivan’s house in Brentwood. It was a ranch style house hidden deep in a small glen of ivy and old oaks. It was one of the few very secluded, exclusive, neighborhoods in a city as large as Los Angeles. The lights were off which concerned Mike as Ivan had told him he’d be home all night.
He parked the car on a small patch of gravel. He got out and as he walked towards the front door, the lights inside came on. Mike ran over and opened the door. He stopped when he saw a platoon of packed bags sitting before him.
“What is all this?” Ivan popped out from behind one of the larger suit bags.
“Just a little surprise.”
“Did you pack for a vacation or are you moving?” Mike was trying to comprehend the amount of clothes that sat before him.
“It’s Europe! The weather over there can be crazy so you need to be prepared for anything. Plus, we’re going to a number of official events so I need a good selection of dressy clothes.”
“Is there anything left in your closet?”
“Just my underwear.” Ivan said with a sly grin as he slowly slid his arms around Mike’s waist.
“Well, you won’t be needing those, now will you?”
“Nope. So, let’s go.” Ivan whispered in Mike’s ear. Mike bolted up.
“Yes. I called and had our tickets upgraded. We leave in about forty five minutes.”
“I can’t go now! I haven’t even packed!”
“You don’t think all these clothes are mine, do you?”
“The red bags are yours, the green ones are mine. I know your measurements and what you like so I took the liberty of packing for you. All originals. All French.”
“Oh my god. Ivan! It sounds so silly to say this but you shouldn’t have,” Ken’s luggage, which was still sitting in Mike’s car outside, was fading out of his mind. “Wait.” Mike said as a certain reality abruptly popped in his head. “My job. My vacation doesn’t start for two more days!”
“So? It’s just two days.”
“It must have been a while since you’ve been in the world of hourly wages, but normally employers don’t like it when you take off work days ahead of schedule.”
“I realize that, but I’m sure they’ll understand. Just call up your boss and explain the situation.”
“I’ll try.” Mike pulled out his cell phone and dialed Oscar Porter; the owner of the restaurant Mike was currently working at. It rang a few times. A thick, smoke scarred voice came on.
“Yeah?” Oscar blurted.
“Mr. Porter? It’s Mike.”
“Oh. Mike. What is it?”
“I was just calling to tell you that something’s come up and,” Mike wasn’t sure what to say. He knew that Oscar wasn’t one to give away free time too easily.
“Hey, Mike, if you’re calling about your vacation time, you’re talking to the wrong guy.”
“Yeah, I haven’t told anyone yet, but I sold the place today.”
Mike felt his head spin briefly as he heard these words hit his ears.
“I know. I was surprised too, but I just got a real good offer the other day and I figured I was about ready to retire. Don’t worry though. No one’s losing their job or anything. I was assured the business would stay open and be run as usual.”
Mike felt a bit of relief at that news but his more immediate concern was still hanging in the balance.
“Who do I talk to about my vacation then?” Oscar proceeded to give Mike a phone number. He thanked him and dialed the new number. He shot a confused look at Ivan as he waited for the sound of ringing. Then almost by coincidence, Ivan’s phone began to ring. He grabbed his phone and stepped away out of sight. Within a few seconds a familiar voice purred in Mike’s ear.
“Yes?” Mike could hear Ivan both over the phone and just a few feet away. Mike clicked off his phone and ran over to Ivan.
“You? You bought my restaurant?”
“I just thought it would make it easier for you to get out of there a couple days early.”
“How did you do this? Buying a restaurant has got to take mountains of paperwork!”
“Fortunately, I’ve got mountains of money.”
“Are you telling me you bought an entire restaurant just so you could make sure I could leave with you two days early?”
“That’s about the shape of it, yes.”
“That is so crazy! You don’t even know how to run a restaurant!”
“I’ll hire someone for that. I look at it as an investment. I’ll worry about all the nuts and bolts when we get back. Now, get your bags. We’re leaving.”