“Let me get your bags,” he says.
Reuben runs to the door when I walk into the house. He grabs my two suitcases away from me, takes them up to the room and comes back down. He has his shirt off as usual. When he comes back Reuben puts it on almost immediately concealing those tight abdominal muscles. He stares at me for a minute as though trying to read my face.
Its a little awkward being back in this house. I feel a little defeated to say the least. I want Reuben to say something like “I told you so.” He warned me about Sean. He told me not to even entertain the idea of getting back with him. I didn't listen.
“Thank you for
letting me come back here to stay.”
“It's the safest place for you,” Reuben tells me, taking a few steps towards me as though he wants to touch me but stopping, “How was the funeral?”
I knew it was coming. I just came back from Desean's funeral. I'm still wearing all black. The fresh memories of seeing the bullets in his body are clear.
I take a few steps away from him and end up leaning over on the island. It's awkward. This is the first time I'm seeing Reuben since we had sex. It's the first time I'm really spending time with him since he told me he loved me. I'm sitting in this apartment right now and I don't know how to react.
awkward to say the least,” I explain, “People were
staring at me. People were watching me. It felt like they were
blaming me for what happened.”
Reuben looks pissed at that moment.
“Did the Carmichaels say something to you?” he asks me.
I shake my head,
“It's what they didn't say. None of them spoke to me. None of
them even acknowledged me.”
“They can't blame you for that shit.”
“I don't know what they blame me for,” I explain, “Sean's missing. The cops are looking for him. It's clear that he killed Desean because Desean had you at that event.”
We poked the bear and the bear finally went crazy.
“So it's my fault?” Reuben asks.
“I didn't say
I don't realize I'm touching Reuben until I do. My hand is touching the side of his arm. I take a step back but Reuben reaches out grabs my hand and stops me.
“You don't have to keep pulling away from me,” Reuben explains, “I was wrong. I shouldn't have said what I said when I did. But if you're asking me to take back what I said---”
I don't blame Reuben. I don't blame Reuben for what I felt because right after he said that I ended up at his doorstep. I made love to Reuben right after he said that. I wish Desean hadn't died but I can't say I regret realizing that Sean was beyond saving. There was nothing that the Carmichaels or I could have done for him. He wasn't safe.
know where I stay,” Reuben explains, “The media doesn't
even know about this place. I'm going to keep it like that. I'm
going to make sure you're safe. You know that right?”
Reuben tries to put on a brave face but I know what happened to Desean came as a shock. No one knew Sean was that dangerous. We knew he was upset. We knew he was abusive. We didn't know he was capable of murder. Sean killed his brother. He walked into that hospital and shot his brother dead in front of everyone.
“I just need
to get my mind off of this.”
“Change your clothes.”
clothes. We're going on a little trip...” he
“It's a surprise.”
We get into our car and we drive for what seems like forever. When I wake up I realize that we are in South Carolina in some old ass town. We've literally driven to the middle of no where. I'm a little confused as we pull into the town. What's even more confusing is Reuben. He's looking outside his window as though he's searching for something. What the hell could he be looking for in a place like this.
“There it is...”
Reuben looks outside of his window and points. Right outside of his window is this building. It's like this bar. It's the only place that is seems to really be open in this town in the middle of no where. Outside of the walls are the words “Trampoline Club”.
I remember the words almost immediately. I don't know if I remember them from the picture or maybe something more. There is something uneasy about this place. When Reuben pulls up outside of the Trampoline club I am reacting in an unusual place. I'm not comfortable here. For some reason it doesn't feel like this place is the place that I want to be.
The club looks old, torn down and forgotten. It' still open though. I can tell by the fact that there are patrons still walking into the place. Again...there doesn't seem like there are a lot of options in this small broken down town.
“Reuben what are we doing here?” he asks.
“I've been looking for it,” he explains, “Ever since I saw that picture of you and me. I've been searching for it. It was almost impossible to find on Google. I had to go to a goddam library man. This place is hidden.”
I look at the building. I look at the dusty strange looking people walking into this place. I'm sitting in the car and just watching. I'm so uncomfortable here.
I don't like this place.
I don't want to be here.
“It should stay hidden,” I tell him.
“Do you remember something?” Reuben asks me.
“Why would I remember this place? I never been to South Carolina,” I explain.
“Are you sure about that?” Reuben asks me.
I know what he's referring to. He's referring to all the weird shit that has been happening to our memories ever since we met one another. He's referring to the fact that in that photo there was a picture of Reuben and I and it said the Trampoline club.
This was a clue to our past but for some reason it was clue that I wasn't sure I wanted to find.
go, Reuben,” I plead out of no where, “Something just
doesn't feel right here. Something just doesn't feel good about this
“I'm not getting that feeling,” he explains, “I feel...good here.”
“Take me home
“Take me the FUCK home!”
I don't know why I'm panicking. Reuben doesn't expect me to yell at him the way I do. When I do yell at him immediately I feel bad. I'm just staring a hole into his head though even after I say it. I just want to get out of here. I'm having a little bit of a panic attack in this fucking place and I'm not exactly sure why. All I know is that this isn't the place that I want to be. He should have told me we were coming here beforehand. I would have never agreed to it.
I don't know why. I just want to run though. I want to get out of here.
drove out all this way,” Reuben explains to me, “We might
as well just go on for a few minutes Garrison. Right? You must feel
some kind of connection to this place. Don't you at least want to
know what it is.”
“Why? Why do you care?” I ask him.
“Some memories are supposed to be forgotten,” I explain to Reuben.
Reuben sighs. He's usually not this persistent when it came to me. Reuben usually thought about my feelings a lot more. Right now he was being selfish. Right now it was clear that this was something that Reuben really wanted and I hated that we were at odds right now.
Reuben shakes his head behind the wheel. I can tell he's not going to let up with this. I can tell that he's not going to just give in this time. He's wants to do this. It's clear.
in,” he tells me, “You can stay out here if you'd
There's no way he'd just leave me out here.
“Fine,” Reuben tells me getting out of the car.
leaves me out in the car! He walks out of the car and goes into this
Trampoline club. What the fuck? What the fuck! I'm panicking as I
look around. Outside of my car there is a toothless little girl that
is way too dirty. She stands on the side of the mud road and just
waves at me with her country ass clothes. It makes me uneasy.
Everything about this country ass town makes me uneasy.
I hop out of the car and decide it's best to stick with Reuben. This isn't the place that I wanted to be. This isn't the place that I needed to be.
“Reuben?” I ask as I walk into the club.
Reuben is waiting at the door by me. He smiles when I walk in. Was he waiting for me.
“Shh...” he says.
Reuben grabs onto my hand. He must either not know we are in the middle of the boondocks when he grabs my hand or he doesn't care. The whole gay thing didn't work very well in cities like this. We weren't in Miami anymore. He seems oblivious to that.
As we walk into the club there is a live band playing on a stage. There is a woman performing.
Not a woman.
It's a drag queen. The drag queen looks just like a woman. As I enter deeper into the bar and take a closer look at the patrons I start realizing that this is a gay bar. We get some stares as we walk into the place. Reuben looks around. The drag queen is performing an old song. I recognize the song immediately. It's Frank Sinatra. The drag queen has on a black curly wig. She holds on tight to the microphone. She leans into it. Her eyes are clothes. She is reaching for something in the darkness. I'm not sure what. She's performing the fuck out of this song. She reaches slowly into the darkness as though reaching for her lover. Her hand closes touching something, feeling something and pulling it back into hear heart. When her hands get back to her heart she holds it there. She feels her lovers embrace.
“I never knew the charm of spring
I never met it face to face
I never new my heart could sing
I never missed a warm embrace
Till April in Paris, chestnuts in blossom
Holiday tables under the trees
April in Paris, this is a feeling
That no one can ever reprise
I never knew the charm of spring
I never met it face to face
I never new my heart could sing
I never missed a warm embrace
Till April in Paris
Whom can I run to
What have you done
to my heart.”
Reuben sits me at the bar. The place is more crowded then I would have assumed especially for this time of evening. Reuben is so comfortable in this place surprisingly. I remember the last place I took him it was different. I was the uncomfortable one. That's completely different though. I watch him paying attention to the song.
After the song ends Reuben just turns to me and he asks me the strangest question.
“What are we
running from Garrison?”
I don't know what he means by the question. I don't know why he asks me it. I don't even get the chance to answer him though. Someone walks over to us. It's a bartender. It's a young black man with curly hair. He looks a little too young to be serving as a bartender honestly but then again we are in the middle of no where.
“What can I get you boys to drink?” he asks us.
“Nothing,” I respond.
I don't want to be
here. There were a million clubs we could have went to in Miami if
he wanted to hear Jazz. If Reuben wanted to go to a discreet gay
spot there were places in Fort Lauderdale that I knew about. Why the
fuck had we come to South Carolina for this?
“Actually get us two gin and tonics,” Reuben tells the bartender.
“Coming right up. Is this your first time at the trampoline?” the boy asks.
Reuben laughs at the
boy, “Do we give ourselves away that easily?”
“Sort of,” the boy laughs, “Most of the people that come here have come here for years. It's the only place around here people like us can go to. You know. It's all we have. All we have is the old Trampoline club. And the only thing the old Trampoline club has is us.”
“We?” I ask.
Boys like you. Boys like me. Boys that like boys like you and me,”
the boy smiles, “This place is old. It's been around
“How long?” Reuben asks.
“Shit. I don't know. My grandfather opened it a while back. I could ask him once he comes around. He should be around here somewhere. He started the trampoline club. It was a place where boys back in the day could come and be themselves. There's a lot of history in this place.”
Reuben sighs as though interested, “I'd like to talk to your grandfather if that's OK.”
The boy bites his lower lip, “You can have anything you'd like handsome. Any---thing....”
He's friendly. I'm sure he's being a little flirty with especially with Reuben. He gives Reuben a little wink. The boy is pretty young but I'm still a little possessive when he clearly is flirting with Reuben. He places the drinks on the table and gives Reuben a deeper smile and lingering eye contact.
Reuben says pulling out his card, “I'll open up a tab...”
“The first drinks on the house,” he explains, “My name is Oscar...”
He offers his hand across the table at that moment. He shakes his head and turns, “I'm Reuben.”
“And this must be your boyfriend by the way he's looking,” Oscar explains.
He is noticing my eyes. My eyes are staring down at him. I don't mean to be so rude to him but it's coming natural. I don't want to be here. I don't want to be in the Trampoline Club.
“No. Not my boyfriend,” Reuben says.
“Oh,” Oscar smiles and bites down on his lower lip. He leans over across the bar closer to Reuben.
“He's my lover. He's my friend. He's the muse for my music,” Reuben corrects Oscar.
Reuben stares at me. There could be a million boys in this room trying to flirt with him and Reuben wouldn't even notice them. Nothing phased Reuben. It is cute how he says this. We are both still married but Reuben could care less at that point. He is so into me and it feels good to have someone who cares so much. I want to smile at Reuben but I don't. I just stare back at the stage.
Oscar seems to get the hint and moves back a little bit, “You a singer, then?”
“We both are,” Reuben corrects him.
“Why don't you hit the stage?”
“I don't really sing the jazz or the blues,” Reuben laughs.
“It's open mic. You can sing anything that you want to sing,” Oscar implies.
want to hear the kinds of songs that I sing,” Reuben laughs but
then all of a sudden turns to me, “My baby however knows some
real good songs. Babe...why don't you go up there.”
“I'm not going up there,” I respond to him.
I know I'm being
anti-social. I know I'm fucking up Reuben's mood but there are
memories in here that I don't understand. Why do I feel like I've
been on that stage before. Why do I feel like I know this place.
Why do I feel like I want to get on this stage and I want to perform
this fucking song?
This song is stuck in my head. It keeps playing over and over.
Reuben's eyes connect to mine.
“April in New York,” Reuben explains.
“What?” I ask.
“April in New
York,” Reuben says again, “That's what you should
“I thought you didn't like Jazz,” Oscar asks, “April in New York is a jazz song.”
Reuben looks down, “I don't know what I'm saying. I don't know where that song came from. I don't know why I decided to say that.”
“No...” I respond, “That's the song that came to mind with me too.”
April in New York
Why does it seem so exciting.
I never heard this
song before but I can hear a melody in my head. I can hear the words
repeating over and over. April in New York. Why does it seem so
“You guys read each other's minds,” Oscar says, “That's kind of cute.”
Reuben doesn't even acknowledge Oscar. Reuben is looking at me with those sexy eyes. These eyes that I've seen a million times but didn't remember until not too long ago. Reuben's fingers rub through mine. He grabs my fingers and holds them together. I feel him so close to me and I remember something. I remember getting up on this stage before. I remember singing April in New York.
“Can you go up there for me?” Reuben asks me.
I look over at stage. I'm struggling.
“Reuben I can't.”
“Please. For me,” Reuben tells me.
It's so hard to say no to him when he's looking at me the way that he's looking at me. I get up off my seat and walk up to the stage. The coordinator asks me what song I the band to play. I tell him. I watch as he seems intereested that I've chosen that song.
The lights dim even more.
I get to the front of the stage and Reuben crosses the room. He stands up right in front of the stage. It's odd and weird. Everyone else is sitting. All the gay guys, drag queens and strange looking people are watching me. They aren't particularly beautiful. These are your classy gays or your gays that had a lot of money. These were regular men who came from holes in the wall to the Trampoline club to be themselves.
As I look in the crowd I could only imagine that some of them had wives. I could only imagine that some of them had entire families. I knew their story. I lived their story.
I was once them.
I close my eyes as the band starts to play.
“Autumn in New York
Why does it seem so exciting”
I open my eyes. I'm not alone on stage. Reuben is right next to me. He knows the song and he leans over into the microphone singing with me. He holds onto the smalls of my waist and pulls me close. I've never sung with anyone before but right now having Reuben on stage with me felt so right. It felt like love all over again. No one was in the room. No one cared. This was true music at it's best. We were living something that we never experienced.
Reuben presses his lips close to mine and he starts taking the lead in the song as he smiles patiently with me, convincing me to join in.
“Autumn in New York
It spells the thrill of first-knighting
Shimmering clouds - glimmering crowds (glittering crowds and shimmering clouds)
In canyons of steel
They're making me feel - I'm home
It's autumn in New York
That brings a (the) promise of new love
Autumn in New York
Is often mingled with pain
Dreamers with empty hands
(They) All sigh for exotic lands
(But) It's autumn in New York
It's good to live it again
This autumn in New York
Transforms the slums into Mayfair
Autumn in New York
You'll need no castles in Spain
Lovers that bless the dark
On benches in Central Park
(But) It's autumn in New York
It's good to live it again.”
I remember something as we finish the songs. My eyes close. When they open I'm in a different time. I'm in a different place. Is this a memory? The Trampoline club looks completely different from what it used to look like. The Trampoline club looks new and fresh. It looks exotic.
I get off the stage after my song and there is this boy standing there. He's so handsome. He listened to my song the entire time and he's so fucking sexy. He has on a corduroy sport coat and part worsted gabardine slacks. The sport coat was gray. When his eyes looks at mine he seems a little bit nervous as he approaches. He adjusts his trousers. He's the most handsome man I've ever seen. That's not saying much. I weren't a lot of cute guys in these parts.
“Can I have a minute of your time sir...” he says.
“Yeah?” I ask.
“You could charm the dew right off the honeysuckle,” he replies with a wink.
I'm much too shy to give him too much attention. I smile though lean at the door.
“I'm just piddlin'...” I let him know.
piddlin'? Bless your heart. You don't even realize you got some
real talent there. I reckon you always win the boys heart up there
in New York.”
I shake my head, “I'm not from New York. That's just my song. I'm right from Souf Carolina like everybody else here. Bright eyed and bush tailed...just like everybody else.”
“I should take you there one day.”
“New York, of course,” the boy tells me.
He's so handsome. He leans into me. Now why would this stranger want to take me to New York. I reckon he's forgotten to take off the ring that he's wearing. I notice it almost immediately and realize that it's time to nip this conversation in the bud.
“Your wife want to come?” I ask him.
uncomfortably, “Hold your horses. Now I know I got a ring and
all, but this the time we live in. You know.”
“It must be your first time at the trampoline club,” I tell him, “Listen. I'm flattered you liked my song. I really am. But listen here fella...”
“The names Bobby,” he tells me.
Bobby looks at me too hard. No one's ever made me feel naked like this before. He looks like he's ready to sop me up on a biscuit.
I have no doubt you just wandered in on the Trampoline club. You
probably heard about it through the wire like a lot of these other
guys. You probably wanted to check it out. It probably took you
some years to get the strength to sneak in here one day. Ain't I
right? You probably waited until your wife fell asleep. You
probably put your kids to bed and you decided...let me go check that
place out. Because before you were a straight married man...you were
one of us. And you felt like this is the only place you can go.
This is the only place in the world that you feel safe to be exactly
who you are. Isn't it?”
Bobby stares hard at me, “How did you know?”
“It's everybody's story. It's my story. You listen to me sing and I am singing a song of a freedom. I'm a free bird to you. Aren't I? I'm beautiful. I escaped my cage and I'm living the life that you want to live. I'm free.”
“You're the most g'dam beautiful bird I ever done seen,” he tells me.
listen here. Bobby, was it? Listen here,” I reply, “Once
you open that cage door you better think good and hard about flying
out that door. It's no flying back. You understand? There are a
lot of guys around these parts that shoot at birds like us. You
understand what I'm getting at. There's a lot of goddam bird hunters
out in these parts.”
“Is it worth it?” he asks.
“Is it worth it to escape your cage and live for once?” Bobby asks me.
It was. It was worth it to me. I don't know if I can answer that question for Bobby though. He was a closeted straight man just like I was. He was a man who came to the Trampoline club looking for an escape. He was looking at me and he was mesmerized by it. He was mesmerized by a man singing to other men about Paris and New York. He loved the sound of that.
I wasn't going to answer that question for him. I wasn't going to open his cage.
“I got to go Bobby. See you around.”
“At least let me buy you a drink,” Bobby tells me, “A gin and tonic.”
I shake my head, “Nah. I got to go.”
He grabs my hand. He holds me there in the middle of that club and Bobby looks at me with these brown eyes and this clear intention.
What just happened? I'm back in present day. I snap out of it. I'm staring at this man who is looking back at me. He's an older man. He's staring at me with this look of recognition. I realize that the song has ended and I've just gotten off the stage with Reuben.
“You ok?” Reuben asks me.
“Charles,” the old man says to me.
shake my head clearing my mind, “Why do you keep calling me
“It's you. It's you goddam it. You haven't aged one bit,” the old man tells me, “Don't you recognize me Charles. It's me. It's your brother Vaughn.”
“You got me mixed up,” I explain before turning to Reuben, “I want to leave.”
“Are you sure...we can just....” Reuben starts out.
I've never been so intentional with anything in my life. I wanted to get out of here. This place didn't have good memories. I was back in the 1960s in my dream. I knew I was back in the 1960s. I wasn't Garrison Carmichael just then. I was someone else. I was someone named Charles.
nods, “Whatever you want baby?”
“The two of you. This is...impossible,” Vaughn says, “You were killed.”
“What?” Reuben asks the old man.
“Let's go,” I tell Reuben.
nods, “Ok. Let's go baby.”
Vaughn grabs a hold of my wrist at that moment. He touches my wrist. It hurts when he holds it tight in the way he does.
“You were right,” Vaughn tells me, “I didn't believe you back then but that whole time you were right.”
“Hey man let go of him,” Reuben says to the old man.
can't leave,” Vaughn explains, “If what you told me
before is true you are in danger.”
“Are you threatening him?” Reuben asks the old man.
“Let's just go!” I tell Reuben.
I shake off the old man and grab Reuben's hand. We are leaving out but I hear Vaughn say something that stops me right in my foot tracks.
“Your going to die Charles. If you found Bobby...you're going to die again. Your lover is going to find you. Your lover is going to kill you both...again.”
“Sean?” I ask.
I turn to the old man. The old man is scaring me. Was he telling me that my ex husband was going to find us and kill us.
“Your old lover comes in many forms,” Vaughn explains, “You told me it happened before and it happens over and over and over again. The two of you find each other. You fall in love and it's a tragic love. Over and over and over again. It's a broken wheel. It's repetitive tragedy. Over and over and over again. That's what you said to me. Your lover is going to find the two of you. It's just a matter of time now. Just a matter of time. There's no way to stop it. Once the two of you fall in love it's going to be over. Both of you will die...”