Blake's is selected from THEY CHANGE THE SUBJECT
Before that though, we were taking his nephew to the Island to see the ocean for the first time in his life.
Locations all around us were being scouted.
By this time, we have already stopped touching. But none of his family knows yet. He was seeing this psychiatrist about what he felt like was wrong with him. I was surely part of it, how needy I'd grown with him, how demanding I was getting. He was told by the psychiatrist to stop touching me for awhile. He said that if I loved him, I’d wait.
I'd grown impatient.
When his mom invited me on the trip with them, she had no idea. They hadn’t figured it out yet, about him and me. He hadn’t told any of them I was no longer a part of this part of his life.
If I wanted to come, I should come, he said. He wasn't going to stop me. I have my own selfish reasons for wanting to go, follow through with the proposed trip. I knew we would still share a bed. That's just the type of man he was. Anything else would be too awkward to bring up right now, just then, when we were supposed to be having a good time.
I would be reminded like I always am of things that have already happened with him, like that time he took me to London, another vacation with his family, and I was so anxious arriving I was upset instantly when I saw the hotel staff at Blake's had separated us, given me and him a room with two single beds, I guess since we were both men. Joking that night, he asked which bed I wanted, not seeing how upset I was.
He assured me I was the only person he'd ever brought to London, that he hadn't brought me there for nothing. We did curl as close as if one body wrapped around itself, despite the inevitable separation coming, the morning at the end of the week, when the vacation was over.
He and his family were going on to Dublin next. They watched him as he coaxed me towards the waiting cab, told me I should put my sunglasses on, to cover up how I didn't want to go. They could see. He watched me hug his mom, as his face glowed. The nephew, just a baby then, said good-bye with awkward, silent waves. He couldn't stand yet. The two dads there shook my hand. Sisters hugged me. It was his entire extended family.
I felt guilty for being a boy, but he kissed me goodbye in front of all of them, even the driver, then.
We drove up to Savannah separately from his family, to join them at the hotel. The vacation was already in progress. We were a few hours later starting out. I watched the clock on the dashboard for almost the whole, silent ride. I didn't want to ruin this illusion of us at peace, yet.
In the hotel, I was right. We share a bed, but it's in a double room with his younger sister and the guy she's still sleeping with. In the bed across from them, we don't touch. He stays behind at the hotel with the older members of the family, his parents, his older sister and her husband, while I go to a bar to have a drink, eat a salad with the younger sister and the guy she sleeps with. I want to make the most of the vacation, even though he says he doesn’t know why I’ve come.
When I first started feeling him slip away, because of what the psychiatrist was telling him to do, when I could no longer reassure each of us nightly that we brought something to each other, I expressed doubts to some friends we had. One husband was Moroccan, who didn’t find it implausible that I thought a curse had been placed on me, that I feared it. He told me I should go to the beach at high tide, swim out in the sea in my clothes, dunk myself under seven successive waves and then turn, swim back to shore, dropping the clothes from my body, changing into fresh ones I should have brought along, never once looking back. I don't know why I never did any of this.
We stay together on the Island in a beach house his parents rent, large enough for everyone and me. He and I are going to take the back bedroom, because the knots he's got in his neck from all his stress require special attention. That's where the better bed appears to be. There are enough rooms for everyone. He rolls over in the night, tells me not to touch him, asks me why I even came, why I think I'm there. I knew I was asking for it.
I sit on the beach with his family. They are running out to meet all the waves.
I have a disposable camera with me, so I'm trying to take as many pictures as I can, mainly of him when he isn't looking.
No one knew who he was on this Island, who I was, but it didn't matter. We recognized the story. We'd all heard it before, in one version or another.
On the way back home, we all stop to go antique shopping before turning onto the highway. His car is going to follow his parents' and siblings' cars.
I wait outside while he and his family all hunt souvenirs inside. There's a gazing ball. My face shows up there in it. These mirrored globes were originally made for gardens, yards, his mom tells me when they all come out of the store and see me looking at it. The evil spirits, ghosts, would see how ugly they looked showing up and then hopefully be scared away.
Born in Virginia in 1973, Douglas A. Martin was raised in Georgia. His first novel, Outline of My Lover, was selected by Colm Toibin as an International Book of the Year in the Times Literary Supplement and has been adapted and staged by the Forsythe Company for their multimedia production “Kammer/Kammer.” His second novel, Branwell, has recently been published, as well as They Change the Subject, a collection of stories.