The ego is not master in its own
--Sigmund Freud, A Difficulty in the Path of
Being entirely honest
with oneself is a good exercise.
--Sigmund Freud, Origins of Psychoanalysis
your turn," Denise says and elbows him toward the edge of their bed.
With love, no doubt. Extra hard because it comes with extra love.
"There's milk in the freezer if she's hungry." She pulls the covers up
around her cheeks and rolls toward the wall.
Brad rouses. Now he
hears the ruckus from the baby monitor. It's been his turn for the past
five months, but that's okay with him. He figures that Denise did it
all on her own for nine months. Then there was the delivery, breast
feeding and…well, the rest of it. He figures this is the
very least he
can do to help out.
Denise agrees. It is the very least that he can do, she says.
straightens his pajama top and his feet hit the floor. Barefoot, he
pads down the hall to the nursery. Bradley has pulled up against the
bars of her crib and is squalling at the top of her lungs. At eight
months, Denise says that she's getting heavy, but Bradley's no effort
for him. With ease, he tucks her into the crook of one arm and she
quiets. Football style, he carries her to the kitchen and tells her
some of his late-night private thoughts while he warms the bag and
preps the bottle.
When he settles into the rocker with her and
watches her transfixed on his face, everything that once seemed like
troubles or cares just falls away. Before she was born, he never knew
what it was like to love this much. He tips the bottle and rubs her
back and thanks the God that let her be born to him.
If he were
a mother, he could never give up breast feeding. It would be hard to
explain on her first day of school, but he'd make his case somehow. How
could any woman voluntarily surrender a bond like that?
With subconscious reflex, he hugs her tighter against his chest.
Denise gets up at sunrise, she finds them both asleep in the chair. She
puts the bottle in the washer, carries Bradley back to bed, and lies
down for just a half-an-hour more.
Funny, she was never this tired before--not even when she worked all
Brad comes home late that night. Bradley is already in bed, but Denise
pulls back before kissing him, the incipient pucker turning into a
sniff. "Have you been drinking?" The accusation is the first greeting
out of her mouth.
"We had a staff meeting over beers. I was
expected to go. I was expected to have a beer. Like everyone else, I
did. I didn't even finish it." He hadn't. Concentrating on not pushing
as he passes her, he sets down his trial bag and makes his way to the
bedroom. He's not that tired, but it's too late for the gym, so maybe
the best thing is to just go to sleep.
But she follows him,
still talking. "If you're drinking, you're going to get fired again.
Where would you go then? There's no place lower than the D.A's."
elects to ignore the dig. He doesn’t want to fight, and he
doesn’t want to explore the actual answers. "I'm not getting
was sitting two chairs away downing beers and trading anecdotes with me
all night. The place was probably his idea. In fact, this meeting was
in part my three month performance review, and it was stellar."
fact, his three month review had been last week. It had been stellar,
but he hadn't chosen to tell her about it yet. No particular
reason--the time just never seemed right to talk.
Brad peels of his jacket and continues to undress for bed.
"You're on a program; there could be action against your license--"
"For Pete's sake, Denise, what do you want me to do? Take a
breathalyzer?" He's stopped mid-button.
"I want you to be well."
sounds as tired as he suddenly feels. "I don't mean to fight," she
continues. "Maybe you don't remember how bad it was while you were
drinking, but I do, and I don't want to go back to that. I can't go
back to that and I can't let our daughter go back to that. I'm worried
"Worried about me, or worried about yourself?
Worried I'll fail my responsibilities to this family yet again? I
screwed up, Denise. I screwed up; I'm not proud of that, but I'm fixing
it, and you and Bradley have never gone without because of me. And
never will. How long are you going to keep throwing that one mistake in
"That's not fair. Worried about you is worried
about us. Worried about me. We're a family; we're supposed to be in
this together. Don't you get it, Brad? It's not just about you any
She leaves the bedroom, quietly closing the door behind
her with a soft click. He would have understood her better if she'd
slammed it and yelled.
He climbs between the sheets trying to remember when in his life it
ever has been just about him.
was not even three months old when it happened. Denise woke in the
middle of the night to the sound of the shower running. She followed it
to the master bath and opened the door to a cloying cloud of alcohol-
infused steam. Glass shards lay sprayed across the floor in a bog of
coagulating blood with a ruined Kentucky bourbon label clinging to a
few of the larger ones as if for dear life.
In the stall, her husband leaned against the wall sobbing as if his
heart would break.
"Brad, are you drunk again?" It was after four. No way he could be
sober in time for work. Blind fury rose before her eyes.
Then she considered all the blood.
jerked open the stall door. He was unhurt but for a trickle curling out
from under one apparently otherwise intact foot. However, he was
hairless below his eyebrows except for a Rorschach-like patch of hard
to reach stragglers mid-back. His and hers razors lay fallen against
the shower drain: the blades of one choked up and dead, the other
"What did you do?" she said. "Why?"
"I don't know," he replied to one or both. He looked as lost as she'd
ever seen anyone before.
"Denise--" He reached for her, slipped, and fell to his knees. The
reverberation of the thud echoed painfully in her ears.
sorry, but I can't take care of the both of you." She turned off the
water and pressed a towel into his hand. He let it fall to the stall
floor where it filled heavy with water, hairs and blood.
sorry," she repeated, "My baby needs me. I can't do it any more. You're
going to have to be a grown-up and get out of this yourself." Either
that, or just get out. It was beginning to alarm her how little it
mattered to her and Bradley which one he chose.
Leaving her bloody slippers at the edge of the tile, she went to dig
out the Lawyers Concerned
for Lawyers printout and left it by his phone.
was not what he expected a shrink's office to look like. It was light
and airy. A big desk separated doctor from patient, and the only couch
was in the waiting room.
"So tomorrow's your first day with the D.A.'s office. How does that
make you feel?"
ruffled himself in the chair. He still itched where the body hair was
growing back--which was pretty much everywhere. It seemed like there
should have been a hair-shirt joke in that somewhere, but he could
never manage to ferret one out.
"It's not where I saw myself at
this stage in life, but I accept that I've made mistakes, have to pay
the consequences of them, and earn the respect and trust of colleagues
and clients back again. The sooner I begin, the sooner I remake my
reputation and move back up to better things. I say: Let's get on with
"That's a very commendable and positive attitude, but what I asked was:
How does that make you feel?"
Brad weighed the question. It was not one he wanted to answer, but his
working theory was that it was like the LSATs:
when he'd answered some critical mass correctly, he'd get a pass and be
released from these weekly sessions. So with that goal in mind, he
swung at every one.
"Uncomfortable. Uneasy. Not about the job.
I could do A.D.A. cases blindfolded, but how do I fit in? Will I be
perceived as too good based on my résumé or not
good enough because of
how I got there? Will that affect my assignments, my chances to get
noticed, my chances to get rehired by a private firm? My whole life
I've believed that hard work and doing the right thing will pave a
man's path to success, but this time I'm not so sure. This time I
wonder if my little...detour might have changed the road map."
are infinitely easier to vocalize than feelings, and so he hoped a
professional would recognize one within the other. "You know, I already
laid out my clothes for tomorrow. I spent almost an hour going back and
forth over which suit I should wear. How expensive should the shoes be.
I spent over thirty minutes just picking out a tie.
"Do you want me to slow down if you're going to start taking notes?"
Brad raised his eyes to the rapid scratching of the pen.
"I'm fine. Your tie, you say?"
chuckled. "Yeah, my old boss had a thing about them. He wore the most
amazing ties, and always noticed ours. He said much of a lawyer's power
of intimidation lies in his tie. I always tried to buy mine to go along
with whatever type he currently-- You're sure you don't want me to slow
"He's not alone in that thinking. Freud considered neckties to be
fingered his clip-on. "No way Denny put that much thought into it. I
doubt he knows anything about Freud--except maybe what Anna looks like
naked. There are only three things he knows about: litigation, easy
women and cigars."
"You were friends with Denny?"
Yes, well, no. Friends doesn't begin to cover it. Denny: I love him.
He's like my father, my best gun buddy and the most beautiful prom
queen I've ever seen all rolled up into one."
Brad strains his
neck to see the notepad. "You don't have to write that down about the
prom queen. I mean, like a paragon you put up on a pedestal to aspire
to...but you know that never in a million years could you ever--
"That's a lot of notes about Denny? Aren't these sessions supposed to
be about me?"
"Of course. Tell me more about why you chose the clothes you did."
resisted the urge to scratch his balls and wondered how many more of
these sessions they were going to make him sit through in order to
prove he didn't need to be here.
Concerned for Lawyers had saved his license, his marriage, but help had
not been in time to save his job. Brad doesn't hold it against anyone
beside himself. Had he been the one voting, he would have axed any
partner performing as badly and acting as erratically as he had those
past six months.
He'll follow the state program because that's
the deal to keep his license. Except for these bogus psychobabble
sessions, he doesn't really mind. Following rules because they're there
has always come naturally to him. And since he's been back at work, the
shrink's been great about fitting him in around his court calendar.
Brad has the unpleasant feeling it's no big deal because so few of the
shrink's other lawyer assistance patients have calendars to work
People have said variety of unkind things about him
over the years, but he's never been called stupid. Brad notes that
trend with others in his situation, and takes it as a warning.
"How did you feel being in a bar with people drinking?"
didn't even think about it. It was a casual staff meeting. We were
expected to order a beer. I did. I had a couple sips, nothing that
would show up the next day. No big deal. Denise wants to turn
everything into one, but this isn't." Brad rocks back in his chair.
"Some might see her interest in your recovery as a positive."
Brad lets his body language acknowledge as much.
"How long is it that you've been dry?"
"November third. That's--" Brad thinks. "Twenty-two weeks.
telling you, it's not a problem. I don't even like drinking. I don't
even know why I started back then. I never liked it."
"That's the part that concerns me. If you don't know why you started,
how can you make changes to keep from starting again?"
all the dumb questions. How do you keep from picking up a drink? A
cigarette? A book? How do you charge into a combat zone or how do you
not go into a casino? Like his drill sergeant said, you don't think
about the what or why: you just tell your body what to and you do it.
Brad takes comfort in the realization that he has the answer to what is
below being an ADA: being a behavioral therapist.
But they sure do go through a lot of pens.
hardly ever remembered his dreams before, but he nearly always does
now. They play out with the clarity of a DVD in full color with
surround sound and special features. His internist said that was one of
the side effects of the Zoloft. That and something men don't usually
associate with little blue pills these days. The latter hadn't been an
issue to speak of. Things had changed since the marriage--since Denise
had had the baby. His buddies say a lot of women got that way after--to
be understanding and not push her. He never does, great guy that he is.
So that side effect isn't a problem, but the dreams--the dreams are
sometimes enough to wear him out.
times he dreams he is in combat under fire. Cannons pound, rifles fire,
missiles soar over head and arc back down to ground. All around there
are explosions, the acrid smell saltpeter and earth. He awakes in the
morning, heart racing, body at alert, skin sticky with sweat.
"You all right?" Denise asks. Her voice holds real concern, yet she
never suggests he stop taking the pill.
"Yeah. Yeah, just another dream." He wipes his face, kisses her and
gets up to start his day.
"A case against your old firm. How do you feel about that?"
nothing to feel," Brad says. "The legal process is an orchestrated
adversarial system. There's nothing personal about it. It's like
professional wrestling. We all do the jobs we're paid for--that job
that the clients deserve and expect--then we all go out for drinks
"It's an expression. I have no problem trying a case against Denny. In
fact, I'm looking forward to seeing him again."
"And the other lawyer on the case? The friend of Denny's?"
"Alan Shore." Even Brad hears his own voice grow cold. He's not
surprised at the accusation that follows.
"You don't like him. Why do you think that is?"
not that I don't like him. It's more that he doesn't respect himself.
He does all these terrible horrible things to live down to the
miserable self-image he's painted internally, and yet he can't see it.
He's so focused on himself, that like the Emperor with--or without--his
new clothes, he can't see far enough away to assess his own actions. It
makes him very unpleasant to be around, and no, I don't like to be
Actually, Alan had mellowed considerably in his
time at the firm, and most of what Brad had said, if true once upon a
time, no longer was. But the first rule of warfare is "Better wrong
than retreat" and so Brad sticks to his statement.
"That's very insightful."
"Thank you. I like to think I've learned some things in my time here."
He hopes the hint wasn't too obvious.
"And that's the only reason you dislike this friend of Denny's?"
has the grace to look uncomfortable, but he suspects that backpedaling
is even worse in psychoanalysis than in regular war. "That's right."
"Hmm." The pen begins scratching for the first time this session.
tries to give him an enormous hug, but he's not fast enough. Denny gets
the hug started first and Brad is left more in hug receive mode than
"Alan." Once released, Brad really tries with a smile and a sincere
palm. After all, he's supposed to be starting over.
Alan offers back an eyebrow and a snotty tone but no hand. In some ways
it's like he's never left. Brad's not sure if that's good or bad.
"But…what are you doing over here? The D.A.s office?" Denny
gestures to the wrong side of the aisle. "Don't you work for me?"
The noise Alan makes reverberates through the awkward pause.
"You fired me, Denny."
"I did?" Denny gives a look of consternation. Or conceivably it's
constipation... which often amounts to the same thing.
"Your firm did. Don't worry," Brad hastens. "I deserved it. I
had…was having...problems. I'm better now."
I'm very glad to hear it." Alan's staring directly into his eyes, and
Brad finds to his surprise, that he is the first one to turn away.
really good, really good to see you again." Brad clears his throat. "I
was wondering: what are you doing tonight?" As an afterthought, he
includes Alan with turn of his head.
"I'm picking up Denny's Wii."
"His wee?" Brad's eyes dart between the two of them.
"His Wii. Wii." Alan repeats it for emphasis.
"You're picking up Denny's wee-wee?" Brad puzzles and tries to focus.
"Well, Wii Fit." Denny clarifies.
Alan looks smug, not that there's anything new there, but still.
"I'm...sure you do."
"Why do you ask?" Alan is staring at him again. Or still.
"No reason. I thought maybe we could catch up, but there's plenty of
drops all thought about inviting himself over that evening. Instead he
makes an early night and plays with his daughter, but in bed, thoughts
of Denny's wee-wee intrude upon his drifting off.
He decides the shrink doesn't need to know about that.
"I had a new dream the other night," Brad says.
Completely different. This was fountains. I was surrounded by great big
fountains towering and arching and spraying all around me. There must
have been twenty of them, all of them shooting over my head. I should
have been soaked to the bone, but I wasn't. I just stood there and
watched them--they were so beautiful. And I caught some in my mouth.
a good sign, right?" Brad says, as the pen starts moving furiously
again. "Better than combat? You guys say that water is like a cleansing
or a rebirth in a new life."
"Something like that."
Brad waits until the pen is laid down again.
"She asleep?" Brad asks as he kisses Denise hello.
"Mm-hmm." Her hands are moving under his shirt and her pelvis against
His penis is at attention, but he orders it at ease.
"I'm going to go say good night. I won't wake her up, I promise," he
adds in response to Denise's stabbing glare.
When he finishes with Bradley, Denise is in bed. The lights are low and
something smells good, like vanilla or maybe pears.
Brad flips on the TV to TBS.
"I'm thinking about going back to work," Denise says.
don't have to do that." He's putting pajamas on now. His old man
pajamas she'd called them back at the beginning. "Bradley needs you,
and I'm making more than enough."
"I didn't say I had to. I'm
telling you that I'm thinking about it," Denise says. "Or now are you
planning to order me not to think?"
Now he looks at her, really
looks at her. She's wearing that white lace teddy he always liked.
She's more than got her figure back from having Bradley, but her hair
hasn't lost any of the shine. Funny how he can fight and admire her
body at the same time. One of those paradoxes of the mind.
whatever you want. You always do. But I have closing arguments in the
morning, and I need to be rested. That's real." He yanks back one half
of the covers and curls up on his side.
"Denny, Alan." Brad shakes over his loss as a good sportsman should.
"Good job, and good seeing you again."
seeing you." Denny slaps him on the back. "We should get together soon,
pardner." He pours himself a last glass of water from the pitcher on
the defense table.
"About that," Brad says, "I'm free tonight. What are you doing?"
Alan answers with an oblique grin. "Shaking the sheets, stowing
sausages, polishing doorknobs, cleaning the kitchen, and so forth." He
holds a completely straight face. Then he takes the glass from Denny
and rinses his throat.
Brad gives them both a funny look before striding out of the courtroom.
"What’s the matter with him?" Alan asks.
"I don't know." Denny drains the last from the glass and sets it down.
"First time seeing two guys, one cup?"
"How did the case go?"
lost. I lost, but it was to Denny, so…" Brad lets the
off. "Doesn't count. Everyone knows that. I handled it well. I'm
satisfied. Denny's never lost a case, you know."
"Still, that would bother a lot of people trying to rebuild."
"Well…I did have another dream."
"No, water again, but different. There were snakes."
snakes. I was floating in this warm valley between the waves, when all
of the sudden, I was dragged under by dozens--hundreds--of these thick,
white sea snakes. I fought against them, but they dragged me down. But
instead of drowning, I popped back up gasping for breath and dripping
"That's good, right?" Brad asks as the pen comes to the
end of one page and starts on the next. "Cleansing through experience."
His LIT 101 prof had had a thing about water imagery, and Brad figures
lit, psych--all that artsy-fartsy stuff has to be pretty much the same.
"Mmm." A page flips, and the pen starts again at the top.
"I'm thinking I might go back to work." Denise makes the announcement
told you, you don't have to. I'm doing fine. I should be getting a
performance bonus next month and a raise at the end of six." Brad's the
one feeding Bradley in her highchair, his own meal growing colder by
"Who said 'have to?' Maybe I'd prefer to be in a
nice, neat office where people look up to me rather than up to my
elbows in spit-up and number two all day. Maybe I'd like to talk to
some intelligent people who respect me for something other than the
snack food that comes out of my breasts. Maybe I'd like to think about
something other than diaper rash and Teletubbies
for a few hours a day. Did you ever consider that my decision might
possibly be about me and not you?" Denise tosses down her fork.
"We've talked about this--"
talked about this. You've made it very clear you want a traditional
Cleaver family, and I tried it your way. I did. I've tried it for more
than eight months. But I don't like it. I'm not your mother. We aren't
your parents. What worked for them can't work for me, for us. I gave it
a fair try because I love you and because I said that I would. I have
to live the life I want, not some ideal of what someone thinks I should
want. We all do.
"You too, Brad. It's not the end of the world
not to want to be the man your father wanted to be. Think about it.
Would your father ever have spent an evening feeding a baby? What else
will you miss out on if you arbitrarily decide to live out your entire
life the way that you've decided he thinks everyman's life should be?"
"How do you feel about your wife going back to work?"
"I think it probably scares me," Brad says.
"Scared that she won't need you any more?"
scared for her. I had this dream about it. I was surrounded by
buildings-- skyscrapers, monoliths--towering way up into big, billowing
clouds. I couldn't find Denise. I was frantic, looking for her, calling
her, but instead all those buildings came tumbling down on me.
you think it has something to do with 9-11?" Brad asked. He thinks it's
pretty obvious that it does, but it makes him sound self-aware and he
wants to fill time until the pen come to a halt.
"What do you think?"
Brad tries to unobtrusively check his watch.
"Don't worry; I think we're getting close to done."
it's Brad. Brad Chase. How are you?" Absently Brad juggles a baseball
in one had. "I was wondering if I could come over tonight. I need to
get out of the house. ….Netflix? Sounds good. How long's
your queue and
what does it look like these days?....Alan's handling your queue? Why
would you--?" Brad turns the phone away for a second and thinks. "You
know, maybe we should do this some other night. Have a good one." Brad
tosses the baseball into the garbage can for two points and hangs up
The walls are closing in. He's got to get out of the house.
bars wouldn't be so bad, Brad thinks, if it weren't for all the lawyers
in them. The problem is, that's about the only place Brad knows to go.
When stressed, people fall back on the familiar whether or not they
consider it good. He can't remember where he heard that, but it
explains why he's sitting down in the smell of smoke and stale alcohol,
although they both make him equally uncomfortable these days.
now, if I didn't just draw me an opening with the prize quarter horse
in this rodeo. That's what I say." Something slick, oily and probably
very bad for the planet slides in to the chair beside Brad. "Melvin
Palmer." Melvin extends a hand.
"Brad Chase. How's it going?"
Brad returns the minimum shake: fingertip grip, down once and detach.
With his tone he tries for polite but distant. Jordan, Iran, Korea,
"My daddy always told me you could spot a prize
stallion by the set of his tail. I've been watching your tail all
night, and I must say, yours is setting fine, that's what I say. I've
always had the greatest admiration for daddies. How 'bout you?"
Brad blinks. There's a hand on his thigh.
go see if my daddy's theory was right." When he leans close Melvin's
breath reeks of bourbon without mixer. Now his palm's cupped against
Brad moves Melvin's wrist with just enough
force to showcase how much force he holds in reserve has but elected
not to use. "No thanks. I've got court in the morning." He pays for his
club soda and leaves.
It's not even 9:30 when he gets home.
Denise is on the sofa in her nightgown and reading. She looks up,
surprised but pleased.
Yes, he's sure she's pleased.
"Bradley asleep?" He kisses her like he used to.
hum." He draws her by the waist into the guest bedroom and takes her
the first time first hard and fast, the second time like a Sunday
"I made love to my wife last night,"
Brad says, with the air of the Marines raising the flag atop the
mountain of Iwo Jima. "I know how your practice model utilizes sexual
relationships as a marker for overall psychosocial health and global
functioning, and how you seem to be particularly focused on my marital
relations, so I thought I'd get that out in open and maybe we can make
this a quickie. I'm in trial this week. I've got a lot to do." He rocks
back in his chair and watches the flag wave.
"Actually, I was
going to ask you how you felt being out in a bar with colleagues
drinking around you, but since you brought it up, let's start with sex
with your wife. Tell me, why do you think that's at the forefront of
The pen stands poised at the top of a blank page.
was at work for Bradley's first steps. Denise records it, and they
watch it together over and over, his arm around her shoulders. When
Brad realizes he is crying, he tries to turn his head so that she won't
When the recording is switched off, Denise breaks the news.
decided to go back to work. Paul Lewiston offered me a part-time
associate's position at his new firm, and I took it. I'll be
interviewing nannies starting tomorrow."
"I think after the
nanny starts, after you're sure--we're sure--that she'll be good with
Bradley, I think that I should move out...for now."
There is a long pause.
"I think that's probably a good idea." Silently, so silently, tears run
down in streams.
wish there was something I could say to convince you of how much I love
you." He struggles with the question of whether it would be worse to
try to hold her now or not to.
"I know you do. My first
husband, he lied to other people but never himself. At the time I
thought there was nothing worse than that, but I know different now.
And I can tell the difference. When you say you love me, I believe you.
I just wish I were still young enough to believe that love can be
He throws both arms around her, and she falls into his
chest, sobs coming now in great, throat-wrenching heaves, and he
clutches her with all his might.
apartment feels much too big for one. It's two whole days before he
gets Bradley, and he can't for the life of him remember what he did
with his time before she was born.
He's worked out like a
dervish, cleaned everything there is to clean, surfed the channels
until his thumb's numb, finished every Tom Clancy novel he brought with
him assuming he'd never have time to read.
He picks up the phone and dials.
For once Denny doesn't answer with his names.
Too late, Brad notices it's almost eleven o'clock.
Alan? "Alan, is Denny there?"
"The adjoining pillow. Won't be a sec."
"Denny. Brad Chase. I didn't wake you, did I?"
"No, not even sleepy. We just finished tying the knot."
the knot? With Alan?" Some things made more sense when he was getting
drunk and passing out every night. "You wouldn't be pulling my leg?"
"Course not, man! It was my idea. I…I mean, Alan asked me
to sleep with him, but I came up with the idea of
us getting hitched."
In the background, Brad hears Alan snort.
Denny, I don't know what to say except congratulations, and I
appreciate your trust in confiding in me. I'd send a gift, but I
suppose you don't need another toaster." He tries for the weak joke to
cover his confusion. He really thinks things were simpler during the
Desert Storm when all you had to know to understand the world was that
oil and America were good and everything else could take its chances.
"We could use a supply of extra jelly." Brad hears Alan quip in the
background and he makes a face.
"Did you call about something, Soldier?"
I, uh-- I was just hoping to shoot the breeze, but clearly this isn't a
good time. I'm interrupting your--" He thinks about what he's
interrupting and drops off mid-sentence. "Really, congratulations. I
mean it. I know I come off a little stiff sometimes--"
Brad catches something about "like an I-bar up shoved up his backside."
"--but I love you to death, I wish you the very best, and I'd like to
buy you both a drink sometime to celebrate. Good night."
Just before he clicks off, he hears Alan gripe, "Well you should have
thought of that before I finished roping you up."
sometimes thinks the world is a great big cosmic joke that everyone
beside him read the punch line to in a fortune cookie or something, and
he is getting really, really tired of being left out.
Alone with his thoughts, he just stares at the wall, willing the answer
toddling on her own and has said her first words: mama, bang-bang and
"boll" for bottle, in that order. Miles away, a police van pulls up at
the jail and empties out its haul for the afternoon, a bevy of
hand-cuffed protesters in leather, denim and every gay pride item ever
made, sold, envisioned or feared.
Brad towers over the most of
them, so although his pink feather boa is trailing drooping down his
back, he manages not to trip but to keep it pinched between neck and
shoulders until his hands are freed in booking.
"Can I keep
it?" he asks. "It's cold in here." He looks down. Where a stainless
steel hoop stands erect in a fresh piercing, his nipple is throbbing a
"Sorry, Dorothy. I hear you Special Ops guys are lethal
with these. Can kill a man before they even see you coming." The
officer confiscates the boa. He seems to be thinking about the hoop,
but decides not to mess with it in the end.
"My phone call," Brad says.
"900 numbers are blocked," the cop says.
Asshole. "Alan," Brad calls into the phone. "I need
your help. I've been arrested."
not that Brad is reluctant to tell him what for, but one of the
organizers had decided that holding the demonstration on April Fool's
day might get them extra attention, and Brad knows how this will sound
over the phone on April 1.
"I'll tell you when you get here.
Would you please just come? I really need your help." Brad hangs up the
phone and holds his head high for the cat-calls and whistles on the
march to his holding cell.
Alan sits across the table from him.
Brad is in a leather harness covering not much other than a Marine's
best friend. "Semper Fideles"
is written in lickable fingerpaint across his chest, one letter in each
color of the rainbow. Fortunately, he's managed to borrow a denim
bolero vest from some kind soul. Unfortunately, it is about two sizes
It also has "No body knows I'm a lesbian" in neon
lavender bubble paint emblazoned across the back and a rather demure
(considering) glittery pink triangle over one breast.
you're going to ridicule me, I'd just as soon you went ahead and got it
over with so we can move on to the charges and our response. We all
have our needs. I have mine; you have yours. Go on; get it done with. I
can take your mocking me, but I'd like to get out of here as soon as
possible." Brad's lips are as tight as his pecs still are, and his
nipple ring quivers with each emphasis.
"Bradley," Alan says
to him. "Of the multitude of thoughts tumbleweeding through my head at
this situation, I assure you that none of them are remotely related to
laughter or ridicule." He seems as sincere as Brad has ever seen him.
Not that that's saying much, but recently Brad's been less confident
about exactly what he does know about anyone.
but not too much. He's been suckered by Alan too many times before.
"Actually, I'd prefer you did mock me. I'd find it reassuring
that nothing has really changed because of this."
assured: I still find you the same insufferably arrogant,
self-righteous ass I always have. But as for laughter: when a person
has to work and claw to be who he is--who he wants to be--that's a
cause for admiration and encouragement, not ridicule. So, like it or
not, you're going to have to settle for grudging respect. Now, as for
"Penny ante," Brad says. He's more relieved at
the subject change than he cares to admit. "Everyone else they arrested
was for property damage. They only picked me up because they recognized
me, and it's no secret the chief of police wants the D.A. out of
office. They're trying to use me to embarrass him. If I'd been Brad
Chase, accountant, they never would have bothered with me."
so. And yet you are guilty. There are 10,000 witnesses and several
dozen news video tapes. It seems that a plea and a fine--"
can't. I can't have this come down on my boss. I can't lose this job. I
can't. That's why I called you instead of Denise. She could have--would
have--handled a plea for me, but…I need this to go away
considers. "I'll need Denny--his contacts. He'll need to know something
of the particulars, including those he may find distasteful and may
make your future relationship with him awkward. I take it that
discretion on your activities and sexual politics is not of primary
concern to you?" Alan nods toward the chest finger-paint.
Brad furrows his brow. "Why would Denny--?"
"It cannot possibly have escaped your notice that he is an unrepentant
thought-- Aren't you and he--?" Brad stops trying. Hasn't the whole
point of the past year been that none of that stuff matters?
takes a breath and starts over. "Tell anyone you want to. Put the story
on the Internet, for all I care. As long as it's about me and has no
reflection on my job, office or the D.A. I'm not ashamed of who I am,
or what we did. I didn't hurt anyone or anything. The civil rights
violation needed public attention and we got it. We got it. Tell
anyone. Tell everyone."
"Good," says Alan. "I believe we can make this work." He closes his
legal folder but keeps his gaze on Brad's chest.
says Brad. He eyes Alan with suspicion and pulls one flap of the vest
across his pecs in an amusing but ultimately futile effort to cover
"If you're not going to be needing that outfit Friday night--" Alan
licks his lips.
Brad's chair scrapes the floor as he pushes back and jolts to his feet.
Brad wakes up minutes before the alarm goes off. He mashes the off
button and nudges the warm body at his side. "Wake up."
There's no response.
"Wake up," he repeats, louder this time. He moves his mouth beneath the
sheets and begins to nip.
"I'm up, I'm up!" comes the playful response. Tonio pulls Brad's head
up to his lips in the interest of sparing his nipples.
"Ugh, morning breath."
"Ugh, cock breath." Tonio rolls his eyes.
They kiss again, this time for real.
"What time is it?"
"Six." Brad turns the clock around as proof.
no. You kill yourself jogging if you insist on it; I'm going back to
sleep. See you tonight." Tonio pulls the covers back up over his head.
what I need to tell you about. This is my weekend with Bradley--my
daughter. I'm picking her up right after work. It's probably better if
you stay at your place until Monday. Not that you're missing much at
the park with a one-year old." Brad hops up and into running shorts.
"Sure," Tonio says. "Sure. I get it. Her mother have problems with the
gives a ruefully laugh. "Not like you mean. An unemployed actor waiting
tables who dodged selective service and hangs posters in support of
saving the gay whales from acid rain and has no long-term interest in a
woman: you'll be lucky if she doesn't try to marry you."
"Oooh. I never thought of you as the bitter type."
Brad does a double-take, surprised that not everyone automatically sees
the vision of Denise that's in his mind. "She's the most incredible
woman I've ever met. She just… has this way of picking the
possible men for her."
Tonio flips out of bed and rummages the
carpet for his shorts. "My college therapist said that a female
persona, if childless, will feed her id by picking love interests not
as partners, but those who need to be nurtured."
"Really, is that what he said happened to you?"
"No. He said I'm a flaming faggot." Tonio beams a smile at him and Brad
laughs, reveling in how plain good it feels.
"I take Bradley back to her mother's at eight on Sunday. I should be
home by nine if you want to come by then."
flops back on the bed beside him. "Hey Brad, I don't want to make waves
with you and her mother, but if you mean it... I know it's only been
three weeks and I don't want to freak you out or anything, but when I
came out--really came out to myself--my one regret was that I'd never
have kids. I've always wanted them. I'd kinda like to stay. I'd like to
For the first time in, well, maybe ever, Brad think that maybe he
really can have it all.
remembers the parade of his father's girlfriends each one looking about
the same as the last, but each pronouncing his name a little
differently, always wrong.
Denise was right. His daughter will have better than that. He slips the
apartment key around his neck.
great," Brad says, but not this time. "I barely know myself well enough
to try to be two people at the same time. When I have her, I have to be
there for her absolutely. Maybe in a few months--" If you're
Brad smiles and rubs his hand across Tonio's abs. "I'll be back in
thirty or so. If you take a shower now, I can drive you home on my way
"I'll take the bus," Tonio says and rolls over. "I can't do Sunday. I
close for Leo, but later in the week, okay?"
Brad says. He kisses him one more time, then sets out for his run, his
head filled with ideas for Bradley for the next two days.