Those Golden Eyes
Joe stood rooted to the spot as he watched the elevator doors close. Dave's words kept repeating in his mind. 'I've already fallen in love with you." "I've already fallen in love with you." "I've already fallen in love with you."
"Hot damn, Dave Gates is in love with me!" He yelled. The man he had dreamed of loving for years was in love with him. He ran to the elevator. He had to catch up with Dave. He pushed the call button. The elevator door opened immediately. Dave was standing there nonplused. Joe looked at him with a grin. He stepped into the elevator. Dave couldn't help grinning back. As they stared into each others eyes. Joe reached out and pushed a button. The door closed. The elevator descended. Their eyes continued to stare into the depths of the other's soul. The grins faded away. The door opened. Dave didn't moved. Joe reached out and pushed another button. The door closed and the elevator ascended. Still neither man moved or broke eye contact. The door opened and Joe reached out his hand
"I love you, David Gates. We've got the rest of our lives to discover each other. Let's start."
Dave took his hand and followed him back into the eyrie.
Joe stretched and yawned. Last night suddenly came back. He had fallen asleep with his arms wrapped around Dave Gates, that beautiful hunk that ran the bookshop across the campus, after making wonderful, fulfilling love to him. That's what it had been. Love, not just sex. Love. He stretched again and as he woke up a little more it dawned on him that Dave should still be here. He sat up and listen to see if he were maybe in the bathroom. The house was silent, but he could smell fresh coffee. He rose and wandered, naked, into the kitchen. There was no Dave there. He wondered if he was out in the garden.
First, he stopped to pour himself a cup of coffee. He saw a note lying next to the pot. He picked it up and read it.
I'm an early riser. You looked so peaceful, sleeping; I couldn't bring myself to awaken you.
I have gone for my customary morning run. I should be back at my house, showered and dressed by 7:00. Come join me for Breakfast if you arise in time.
Call me. My number is: 776-1423.
Joe looked at the clock. It was only a quarter to six. He had time for a leisurely cup of coffee, a quick shower and a fast spin over to Dave's.
"Dave," he thought as he sat on the terrace sipping his hot coffee, "if only you knew how long I have wanted to know you. I've watched you for nearly twenty years. I dared to get to know your partner, but never you. I'm such a coward when it comes to love. Then last night you were sitting in that bar alone; it was as though you were waiting for me. I don't know where I got the courage to sit next to you. Nor how I was able to talk to you and take you to dinner. And now you've said you love me. What more is there to want? You are the ultimate man for me. I wonder what you would think of me if you knew that. I wonder if I have the courage to tell you to your face?"
"Oh well. There is time enough for such truths as we cement our relationship." He said aloud, and sighed. He wondered if it was a happy or sad sigh. He decided it was neither, just a somewhere in between sigh. He stood up and stretched. He headed, still bare-assed, to the shower.
As the water flowed over him, he tried to imagine what it would be like to shower with Dave. The image of Eric standing in the shower in front of him invaded his mind like a pop up ad on your computer screen. Showering with him had been one of Joe's favorite things. So many years later he could still almost feel Eric's hands gliding over his body. Those enticing lips, that were always curled in a smile. Those enigmatic eyes that bewitched. Eric, so young, so beautiful, so stupid. Joe had loved him so much it was overwhelming. He had put his whole life and soul into loving Eric.
And then came the day he had gone home early to surprise him with a hot home-cooked meal. Joe had been the one to be surprised. The stereo was playing lounge jazz. Eric often left the stereo on when he left the house. Joe thought nothing of it. It had covered the sounds emanating from the bedroom until Joe had opened the door and there was Eric, legs in the air as an older man plowed his rear. Eric had grinned at Joe standing there. Eric had sworn that Joe would always be the only man in his life And here he was getting fucked by a stranger. The whore. The desecrator.
"Want sloppy seconds, Babe?" Eric had asked. His eyes had a glazed look. He was obviously high on some drug.
The man hadn't even slowed down as he continued to fuck Eric's beautiful ass. He grinned, too, at Joe. His eyes were also glazed with the same drug.
"This is some hot ass, Man. You should try it."
Joe had shuddered, turned and walked out, closing the door behind him. He had gone to a hotel and only returned to the house when he knew that Eric was out, and then only to remove his clothes. The rest of his belongings and the house itself he left for Eric.
He had never spoken to Eric again. Eric had been frantic to make things right, but what he had thoughtlessly destroyed could not be rebuilt. Every time he called, Joe would simply cut the connection. Finally after a week Joe had left for an extended stay in Italy.
Two years later Eric was dead. Beaten to death by one of his tricks. Joe had the house cleaned out and sold it. That was the end of Eric, except at moments like this, when he slipped into Joe's thoughts unexpected and disrupted his emotions all over again.
Joe had fallen to his knees; the pain in his heart and head beat him down. He couldn't catch his breath it hurt so bad. He doubled up with his head on the tile floor. Eighteen years had past and the memory of Eric still got to him. Eighteen years and Joe had not touched another man. Until last night.
It was when Joe returned from Italy, bringing his cousin Gio with him, he had discover Gates-Way Bookstore. Being an avid reader he spent lots of time in the store. The first time he saw Dave, he was entranced. Here was his ultimate dream man. But Dave was happily married to the store's co-owner. All Joe could do was dream, never touch or even approach him. After a while he began to think of his weekly forays into the bookstore as going to get his Dave fix.
Joe had tried many times over, in the beginning, going out to bars looking for someone that could make him forget about Dave. After a while it just got too boring. One nighters was not what he wanted so he quit altogether. For nearly fifteen years he had remained celibate and dreamed of Dave.
He thought of Dave now. The pain receded. He sat back; the hot spray of water beat on his face. He washed the images of Eric from his mind, and imagined them swirling down the shower drain. He filled his imagination with Dave. Dave standing in the elevator saying, "I already love you." The pain receded more. Dave laying naked beside him. He could breath again. Dave's post coital smile. He staggered to his feet and finished his shower. He kept saying to himself that he was going to see Dave in a few minutes. Everything would be okay.
Meanwhile, Dave had gone home and changed into his running gear. He ran over to Garland Blvd and turn toward downtown. When he reached Fifth Street he turned and jogged back the way he came.
As he ran, he rehashed the events of the last twelve hours. He hadn't been able to place where he knew Joe from, until he had seen the photo in a silver frame sitting on the grand piano with a bunch of other framed photos. The photo showed him sporting a neatly trimmed beard. It was the same one as in The Architectural Digest. In the bookstore, that was where he had seen him. Nearly every week, at least once a week, for he didn't know how many years, he had looked up at some point in his day and made eye contact with those beautiful eyes.
Those golden eyes had haunted him forever it seemed. But with a clean shaven face and sun bleached hair and eyebrows ,Dave had missed the connection. He suddenly heard in the back of his mind a replay of the conversation in the bar last night. He could hear Joe saying,"I don't mind you looking at me. I've been looking at you for a long time. You're a damn handsome man." Dave then knew why Joe had been looking at him for a very long time. He was in love with him.
The funny thing about the Professor (that's the way Dave had thought of the bearded man with the golden eyes in the bookstore) was that every time Dave had ever tried to approach him, he had disappeared, except the one time that Dave had approached him unawares and helped him find a book. Funny how he still remembered the name of the book that Joe had been after that day. Lawrence Durrell's Nunquam. He'd gotten lost looking into Joe's eyes. He had stared until Joe had abruptly thanked him and fled. He recalled having mentioned Joe's eyes to Bill one time. Bill had made a point of getting to know the Professor. He had insisted that the man had green eyes. Dave remembered many a time that he had seen the two of them chatting it up over an espresso. Bill had loved having the coffee shop in the bookstore. Visiting with people was what Bill did best. Of course, he sold many books that way. Dave chuckled remembering how people never seemed to catch on that Bill was selling books while seemingly just chatting. Damn, he missed his man.
And then he thought about last night. Last night had been the most wonderful night he'd had in many years. It was so good to have a man's arms wrapped around him while he slept. Sleeping with Joe was nothing like sleeping with Bill. As soon as Bill was ready to go to sleep, he had always turned to his side of the king size bed. With Joe, he had been aware the even though they both moved about in their sleep, he still woke up wrapped in Joe's arms. He wondered if time would put an end to it. It was a surprise to him that he was thinking long term. But what was strange about that? The only relationship he'd ever been in, had been for nearly eighteen years and that wasn't counting the eighteen months he and Bill had courted each other before deciding to make it permanent.
Yes, Dave was ready for another long relationship. He was sure that Joe was the man. He just wasn't sure who the man was that he knew as Joe.
Dave walked the last couple of blocks back to the house. He went into the bedroom shucked his wet clothes, finished his cool down with stretches, and then jumped into the shower. Just as he stepped under the water he heard the phone ring. He stuck his head back out to listen to the message. It was Joe.
"Hey Dave, I bet I caught you in the shower. I'm headed to your house. See you in a few."
Dave smiled to himself. He hurried through his shower, shaved and threw on some jeans and a sweat shirt. The doorbell chimed just as he slipped into his shoes. He stood up and examined his image in the full length mirror. He looked good.
He was forty-two and he felt like giggling. He headed to the front door to greet his new lover. He paused before he got to the bedroom door and thought about that. New lover? For a moment he felt guilty. Was he was being unfaithful to Bill? He looked at the smiling photo of Bill setting on the dresser. He heard Bill say in his head "Go for it, Dave. He loves you." "Thanks, my man. I love you." He said aloud, kissed his finger tip and touched it to the picture. He had a lump in his throat that could have been from missing Bill or maybe it was his heart, for Joe was just on the other side of the door. He decided it was a bit of both.
The doorbell chimed again. Dave felt like skipping. He hurried to open the door for Joe. They looked at each other and were both overcome with a shyness that only new lovers have toward each other in the beginning.
"Hi, Dave." The shadow of the earlier pain still lurked in his eyes. Dave saw it.
"Joe, what's wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong now that I'm here." He smiled.
Dave suddenly remembered his manners.
"Come on in."
Dave closed the door behind him. For a moment they stared at each other and then the taller man leaned down and kiss the shorter. Once lip contact was made Dave wrapped his arms around Joe and kissed him back. When they broke the kiss Dave leaned back looking at him.
"For a moment there I was afraid you were having second thoughts."
"No, Dave, I was thinking I can't be lucky enough to have the man of my dreams to love, who's going to love me, too."
"Well, you have. I love you, Joe."
Joe kissed him and didn't say anything. When Dave thought he would pass out from lack of oxygen he broke away.
"Come, let's find something to eat. I've had only a glass of water since I got up this morning."
Taking Joe's hand he led him into the kitchen.
"Have a seat. I'll get the coffee started."
After he started the percolator, (That was another of Bill's eccentricities. He had always preferred his morning coffee perked. Dave continued making it that way out of habit.) he poured two glasses of orange juice, handed one to Joe and sipped the other as he rummaged through the fridge for breakfast food. Soon he had a package of frozen chopped spinach sauteing, English muffins toasting, Canadian Bacon sizzling and eggs poaching. He quickly made a hollandaise sauce, using real butter and fresh squeezed lemon juice.
He took a red tomato from the window sill over the sink, washed and sliced it into eight wedges. The egg timer chimed. He removed the eggs from the simmering milk to a saucer. On each plate he made a nest of spinach in which he place two halves of a toasted muffin he slid a slice of Canadian bacon onto each. He topped those with a poached egg. He spooned the Hollandaise over the stacks, and placed the wedges of tomatoes in a decorative pattern on the spinach.
Not a breakfast of champions, but one that was appropriate for a first breakfast with his new lover. The hair on his neck tingled at that thought. Am I serious? He looked at Joe. Was he serious? The look on his face said he was. Dave basked in the adoration in those golden eyes. Why was it they were always green until he looked at Dave? He placed the plate in front of Joe and received a big grin of appreciation.
"You're a gourmet cook."
Dave grinned back at him.
"No, that was Bill. He loved to cook. I just do a few little things, like this."
"Oh, this is a little thing. I see. Just how many people can do a little thing like this, do you think?"
"Don't get smart or I'll take it back."
Joe grabbed both sides of his plate.
"No way, Dave. This looks too good to let you have it back."
"So why don't you taste it and see if it is edible."
Joe took his knife and fork, cut a bite and placed it in his mouth. He closed his eyes and hummed as he slowly chewed.
"Tastes even better than it looks. Will you marry me?"
Dave's reaction was like he'd been hit in the face with a cold wet bath sponge. Tears sprang to his eyes. He knocked his chair over backwards as he suddenly stood up. He stumbled to the sink, gripping the edge of it, he stared out the window through the tears that ran down his cheeks.
Joe looked at him in surprise. He laid dawn his knife and fork and stood up.
"Dave, I'm sorry. I didn't mean that. I mean I did mean that, but I didn't mean-- Damn! What I meant was that I do want to marry you I just didn't mean for it to sound so trite."
He had moved over to Dave and took him in his arms. Dave dropped his forehead on Joe's chest.
"I'm sorry. Maybe I'm not ready for this, Joe."
"What do you mean, Dave?"
"It suddenly hit me that Bill is really gone. He's not coming back--ever. I've got to stop waiting for him. So, I guess I am available . I don't think I'm ready, though. I'm sorry, Joe. I'm sorry."
"Dave look at me."
Dave didn't respond. Joe lifted his chin until he made eye contact with him.
"I love you, Mr. Gates. I've been waiting for years, not knowing if you would ever be available to me. I've not wanted anyone else. I will continue to wait for you--until you are ready. Do you understand that?"
Dave nodded his head.
"We'll take this slow. But one thing you've got to do, Dave, is to let yourself grieve Bill's death. It's unkind to yourself not to."
Dave nodded, mute with his grief.
"Would you take me to visit his grave, Dave?" Joe asked. "I'd like to leave some flowers in remembrance of all the wonderful hours we talked in the coffee shop. He was always friendly to me, but I would never let our association advance to a friendship. I missed out there. I think he would have been a good friend. Would you do that with me?"
Dave nodded again. Joe hugged him. Dave lifted his arms and hugged him back. Joe raised Dave's face and kissed him on the forehead.
Dave laid his head against Joe's chest and embraced him tightly.
"I'm so glad you're here, Joe. I really need you, you know."
"No more than I need you in my life, David Gates. No more than I need you."
Sunday morning they had a light breakfast after Dave's run. They showered together, not playing around but still enjoying bathing each other. Joe not once thought to compare the experience to showering with Eric. They dressed.
"Are you sure you can go through with this, Babe? We can do it another time if you wish."
"No, today will be good. I need to tell Bill about you. I know he is happy for us. As trite as it sounds, I do need closure. Going with you will do it. It will be good."
Joe didn't respond with words. He took Dave in his arms and held him for several minutes. Dave embraced him in return. They were both feeling that they were where they were meant to be.
At the cemetery Dave lead Joe to Bill's grave, next to his father's William Sr. Joe stood there and stared at the head stone for several moments. Dave approached it and knelt, and place the bouquet of flowers in a vase built into the front of it.
"I don't need to introduce you two guys. I have to let you go now, my love. There's another man in my life now. He needs and loves me as much as I love and need him. I'll see you, Bill, in not so many years. We'll be together, forever, then. Wait for me."
Dave knelt there with his head down for several minutes. Joe had knelt on the opposite side. With tears in his eyes he started talking to Bill.
"Bill, old man, I just want to say that I really enjoyed our chats over coffee. I wish I could have been more open and let a friendship develop between us. But you know why I couldn't.
"I want to thank you for letting me have the love of your life. I promise you, Bill, that I will always love and cherish him as much as you did."
Joe patted the headstone and stood up.
"Bye, ol' fellow."
When Dave finally sat back and looked up, he smiled at Joe.
"I'm ready, Joe. The rest of my life is with you."
He stood and walk to the foot of the grave. Joe joined him, taking his hand.
"Bye, Bill." Dave said and led Joe back to the car.
Joe was quiet as he drove back toward the campus and Dave's house. Dave sat with his left leg up on the seat. He watched the shadows dart through Joe's green eyes. Although he thought that Joe would eventually tell him what he was thinking, he finally had to nudge.
"A penny's worth, at least?"
"I was just hoping you'd share your thoughts with me."
Joe looked at him, the gold tinting his eyes as he did.
"Dave? What will happen with us when we die. I heard you promise Bill the two of you would be together. What about us? Will we be together, too?"
"Of course we will be, Joe. I believe that everybody we love will be with us for eternity. You'll be right there with Bill and I."
Joe was quiet for a while more.
"I think I'm selfish. I want you all to myself for eternity. I don't want to have to share you."
"Yes, you're selfish. But that's okay. I love you and you love me. And for now that is enough."
Joe smiled at him as his golden eyes radiated his love.
The Monday morning after their birthdays Dave was doing his morning routine in the books store. He had a silly little grin on his face. Every once in a while he would start whistling a tune. Sue caught him in the back office doing a little jig as he whistled.
"Where'd you meet him? Come on, old man, give me the low down."
Dave blushed a deep scarlet.
"Oh, Dave, I'm so happy for you. What is his name?"
"Don't you have any respect for you boss. I'll give you the low down. I'll make you get down and beg my forgiveness for calling me old." He glared at her as he broke into a big grin.
"Isn't forty the top the hill?" she asked in a little girl voice.
Dave broke up at her feigned innocence, knowing she was just a year younger that Joe.
"Bitch." He said through his laughter.
"So who is he?"
"You know him. Joe Paolini."
"The name rings a bell, but I can't put a face to it."
"He comes in here fairly often. I'm sure you've seen him. A big fellow. Blonde hair, beard, golden eyes."
"I get a face, but he has green eyes."
"Yeah, green eyes."he agreed.
"Okay I remember him. He's the one that always acts like he's perusing a book as he watches you. So are you going to introduce him, or keep him to yourself?"
"He's stopping by tonight. You'll get to meet him."
The day dragged as much for Sue as it did for Dave. She wanted to see what, or rather who, it was that had broken Dave out of his shell. When Joe walked in, Sue was at the check-out desk. She thought she would swoon when the handsome man approached her.
"Is Mr. Gates in?" He asked in his resounding baritone voice.
"Dave Gates. The owner of this bookstore."
"Forgive me. I just had to hear you speak some more." Joe blushed at Sue's forwardness
"Who may I say is looking for him?"
"Just tell him Joe is here, please."
Sue wasn't disappointed. She'd been expecting the man with a beard and this hunk walked in. She leaned down to the intercom. And said, sotto voce, "He's here! He's gorgeous."
"What happened to the beard?" She asked as she straightened up.
"I got it caught in a wringer and it pulled it off." Joe answered with a straight face.
"Oh, that must have hurt." Sue replied with false sympathy.
"Nah, it hadn't grown in very deep."
Sue couldn't keep it up; she burst into laughter.
"I like you Joe Paolini. You definitely are just what Dave needs."
"Thank you, Ma'am. I'm afraid you one up on me; I don't know you name."
"Oh, I'm sorry. Sue. Sue Morrows." She held out here hand. He took it in both of his.
"I'm pleased to meet you Sue. We're going to be close friends."
"I hope so, Joe, seeing as how we've been seeing each other for years. I like you already. Ah, here's the boss."
Dave walked up. When he saw Joe's red face he knew that Sue had purposefully embarrassed him. He let it pass knowing Sue would do the same to him given the chance.
Sue was entranced watching the messages of love flying back and forth between the two men. And then she noticed Joe's eyes. She turned to Dave.
"You're right they are golden. I'd of sworn they were green awhile ago. Dave smiled as he gazed up at Joe.
"You were right, too, Sue, they were green awhile ago."
Joe grinned at them feeling awkward with the two of them discussing him.
"You're both right my eyes are hazel. They change with my mood. Are you ready to go, Dave?"
"Sure, let me get my briefcase." He walked back to his office.
"Some Sunday, when you're both off you must join us for dinner, Sue. I know the repartee will be most entertaining."
"I'd love to, Joe, but I don't know that Dave would add much to the conversation. He seems to have lost the knack for talking since last Friday."
"I heard that." Dave said walking up to them. "And I'll have you know, Miz Morrow, that my conversation is scintillating--well, as long as Joe is the subject being discussed."
"Jeez, do you two ever turn off?" Joe asked blushing and laughing at the same time.
They both looked at him incredulous that he would ask such a question.
"NO." they said in unison.
End of Chapter 2