Mikey and the Chickadee Ch. 09

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I settled back into wakeful existence with the fluttering undulation of a dead leaf, or of a sheet of paper, sidestepping erratically in its journey to the floor. Not one to suffer confusion upon waking, I resumed acknowledgment of my location without pause. Mikey lay still in dormancy next to me, chest exposed, swathed stomach-down by the comforter. With his eyes closed and pink lips slightly parted, his face softened to a faint melancholy that I observed as upsettingly beautiful.

I turned onto my side to face him and realized that part of this action was motivated by the will to assert my presence-as if to say that I am here, another muscled, male human in your bed next to you, the heat from my body uniting with yours, corralled in the tiny space between us, and this is what happens when you invite me to stay. Just in case you hadn’t realized what you were up to, then here, behold the outcome of your decision.

My movement caused him to stir and his eyelids blinked open. They slowly closed again and he heaved himself onto his side, now facing me. The inches parting our two faces were in short supply-shorter, I assumed, than he was aware. He said in a small, hazy voice, “As it happens…wait, hold on.” Eyes still shut, he began again, “As it happens, there are particular aspects of my life to which I would like to maintain sole and exclusive rights and privileges.”

He was quoting. I wracked my brain for that single, complimentary response and quickly dusted it off. “For instance, what?” I asked.

He smiled and his eyes flicked open for the second time, calibrating lazily on my nearby features. If our proximity just now became known to him, he did not show it. “Good morning, Chickadee,” he said.

“Morning. Still thinking about the movie, I see.”

He laughed hoarsely and lifted himself to a sitting position, staring blankly out toward his dresser. “Did you sleep okay?”

I moved to my back. “I did. What about you?”

“Like a baby. I don’t remember a thing.”

“Me, neither.”

“That’s good,” he said. “Be right back.” He left for the bathroom and I could not help but appraise his backside and he moved away from the bed, inwardly reeling at the way his bulking upper-thigh more than filled the leg of his underwear.

I checked my phone and set it back on the nightstand. It was after nine.

Mikey returned with his phone in hand and said, “I’m going to meet Sophie around eleven at the office. We still have a few things to sort out before the company meeting tomorrow.”

I sat up. “No problem. I’ll get going.”

“Will you at least stay for breakfast?”

“I’d be happy to.”

He rattled off some options as we dressed.

“Cereal is just fine,” I said. “I don’t usually eat much for breakfast.”

As we ate Mikey held his spoon in his left hand; with his right he swept across the table, clearing away some invisible detritus from its surface. After repeating this motion several times he looked up at me and said, “If Sophie has a free evening this week, it would be cool if you could meet her. Would you be okay with getting dinner or something?”

“Sure, that sounds fun,” I said.

“Awesome.” He dropped the spoon into his cereal and seized up his phone. “Let me just look at a few things…” He smiled to himself as he tapped at the screen. “I’m guessing Tuesday will be okay. Six o’clock? Does that work for you?”

“Yeah, that’s fine,” I told him.

“Okay, awesome. Yeah.” He set down his phone. “Fuck, this’ll be so cool.”

I assured him that I was excited. Privately I was surprised that he’d felt comfortable inviting me in the first place, but I was also more than a little curious to meet a person whom Mikey was so fond of, and who had, I suspected, lent him a great deal of emotional support in the past.

When we were done eating he offered me a ride home but I declined. “I don’t want to rely on you in that way,” I said. “It’s asking too much.” I left his apartment contented by the crystallization of this new meeting.

The rest of my day constituted somewhat of a wash, although I was carried on vaguely sore legs to the gym a couple of hours after returning home. Afterward, I proudly consumed leftover fruits of the previous day’s incident of rare culinary ambition. Mikey texted later in the evening to inform me that his cousin had confirmed for dinner on Tuesday. I replied to tell him that I looked forward to it.

We did not share a bus the next morning. I fell asleep several minutes into the ride and nearly slept through my stop. Arriving at my desk, an welcome eagerness materialized within me to dive into the pool of documentation lying in wait.

My mom liked to say that a new hollow space in the mouth feels much larger than the tooth that left it behind, and this sentiment came to mind when Calvin was gone from work that morning. I had forgotten that in skipping Friday, I would be missing his last day.

“It’s just as well,” said Jennifer. “I think he was a little off the whole day. He didn’t want anyone making a big thing out of Uzun porno it.”

His legacy (as it were) of throwing caution to the wind remained with me, interminably hovering above one shoulder or the other throughout rest of the of the day. I predicted that if this presence persisted through to Friday, my decision would not ascend entirely above its influence.

Upon boarding an unusually full bus after work, I made eye contact with Mikey and he illuminated as I negotiated the aisle back to where he sat.

“Felt like a jerk putting this down here,” he said, moving his briefcase from the seat. “Whatever.”

“Thanks for saving a spot.”

The bus rumbled away from the curb and he said, “I have to drive tomorrow, so come by my apartment in the morning and we’ll go together if you want.”

“Thanks. That sounds great.”

Mikey pulled out his phone and apologized, saying he had a few loose strings to tie up from work.

“You don’t have to be sorry for that,” I said.

Although I roamed around on my phone as he made a client call, I also secretly listened in, tempted in no small part by his smooth, professional style. He remained involved in his work until our stop arrived, handling another call as we stepped off the bus. We stood together for just a second at the stop. I waved and made to leave for the next, but Mikey reached out and touched my hand. I drew it up to my chest.

“See you in the morning,” he said under his breath.

I smiled. “Alright.”

Overnight, the outside air covertly disposed of its warmth, which vacated so thoroughly that in the morning I shivered beneath the light coat I’d chosen for the day. Mikey offered to lend me a heavier one as I met him down at the garage, but I refused.

“I’ll be fine. The weather just snuck up on me, that’s all.”

“We’ll be eating inside tonight, so don’t worry about that.”

Once his car had passed beneath the building’s low exit and crouched through the dip at the edge of the street, he looked over at me. “Yesterday on the bus-I hate times like that. I really like to keep those calls and stuff inside work hours.”

“Well, you weren’t home yet. It still kind of counts as being at work, right?”

He relaxed slightly in his seat and his thumb massaged the leather on the steering wheel. “I don’t know…” After another minute he said, “I just feel like it’s a little too easy for me to lose grip on my schedule.” He paused, looked down toward the shifter and then turned up the heat. “After that, work takes over, and then I start to go crazy.”

“I see how you feel.” I looked away, out my window and said, “I don’t want you to have to worry about that.”

“Hey,” he said, and I turned to him. “It’s really good that we started hanging out. You being here is actually helping me out a ton.”

“Okay,” I said. “I’m glad to hear that.”

He turned up the radio just barely and began drumming on his lap, now steering with his knee. “Come on, give me some more travel stories.”

I laughed. “If you insist,” I said, and we conversed within the warm custody of wanderlust until he dropped me off.

As my Tuesday shift drew in its final breaths, Jennifer slouched at her desk across the barren walking aisle from mine. I looked over and we shared a knowing expression.

“I’m exhausted,” she said. “It’s so quiet today. Where’s Calvin when you need him?”

“I really wish he was still here,” I said.

Twenty minutes later we walked down to the lobby together and parted ways. Mikey had texted me the address of the restaurant, and as I started walking north I realized he had likely selected a place close to my office on purpose. The only downside to this was arriving half and hour early; with nothing else to do I sat on a bench by the door. It was an Italian restaurant that I had passed by many times before without ever noticing. An inviting, bread-filled scent flowed from the dining area.

After a short time I looked up from my phone. A woman had come to stand close to me. She wore cobalt blue slacks and a matching blazer with a white blouse underneath. A small, amber leather purse hung from the crook in her arm and her black hair fell directly to her shoulders. When our eyes met she said, “Do you happen to be Wyatt?”

“Yes,” I said, standing. “You’re Sophie?”

She held out her hand and I shook it. “I thought for sure I would be the first one here,” she said, smiling. “Mikey’s moving his car, but he should be here on time.” She resembled him subtly, and even spoke a little bit like him, in that unequivocal way that only close family can.

“It was just a short walk from my work,” I said. “Would you like to get a table?”

She motioned for me to lead the way and a host brought us to a table for four near the back.

“I’m so glad to finally meet you,” she said. “Mikey talks about you nonstop.”

I sat down to face her and smiled. “Really? I can’t imagine there’s a lot to say.” Presently I said aloud exactly what I was thinking. If Mikey spoke to his cousin about Öğrenci porno me at a depth even one foot below the surface, it was certain to invite, at the very least, some level of confusion.

“I don’t mean to embarrass him,” Sophie said. “He just speaks very highly of you. The company kind of consumed him for a while. It’s nice to see him hanging out with people outside of work again.”

“Yeah, he talked about that. He said he’s been making an effort to cut back.”

She nodded. “So, you’re an accountant, right?”

“I’m getting there. I’ve only been in the field about six months. I graduated last May.”

“Did Mikey tell you we’ve been starting to look at hiring an in-house person for our stuff?”

I shook my head. “No, he never mentioned that.”

“Well, we’ve only just started discussing it since he’s been back. Actually-” She stopped as a server came by to take our drink orders. Sophie ordered a glass of wine and I followed her example. “Actually, I’m the one who really thinks we need it,” she continued. “Plus, I’m sure he didn’t want to suggest that you come work for us-especially with you guys being close outside of work. It’s not always a good idea.”

“Right, I see what you mean,” I said. “It’s awesome that you two work together so well, though. Mikey said he couldn’t do it without you.”

“He’s incredibly driven, so I’m sure he would have done well on his own. But I did study computer science. You could say I’m classically trained. He picked a lot of it up on his own and was missing some of the foundational knowledge. That’s probably been my biggest contribution. Anyway, we’ve been messing around with coding stuff since junior high.” She smiled at this. “We were probably destined to do this together.”

“That’s so cool,” I said. “Actually, Mikey never talked about what he went to school for.”

“Well, he also started in CS, but he never had a chance to finish. When my aunt and uncle passed away…you know…it really derailed him. In the end, he didn’t need to go to school, though. He’s a strong self-starter.”

“Oh,” I said. “I see, okay. He’s told me a little about his parents. We haven’t really talked much about the accident, though.”

“He doesn’t mind talking about it,” she said. “I really believe he’s dealt with it in a healthy way. Obviously he still carries it with him. I do, too. But it’s been almost four years, and we’ve processed a lot of it together.”

Our wine arrived. Sophie sipped at hers and I did the same.

“I’m so glad you were there for each other,” I said.

“Yeah. And of course he had Alice, too. I don’t know if he’s talked about her at all.” She laughed. “I should probably just shut up and let him tell you this stuff.”

“Alice was his girlfriend, right?”

“Right. She gave him a lot of support. Alice wasn’t…” Sophie paused. “I don’t believe they would have lasted. No matter what had happened.”

“I see. This whole thing is a little weird, to be honest. I haven’t known him that long. But we are getting pretty close.”

“Yes.” She nodded earnestly and set down her glass. “I know. I understand.”

“It’s just really interesting talking to someone who knows him. Someone who’s not him. I feel like I have a million questions…or none. I don’t know. It’s just good to meet you.”

“Definitely,” she said. “I’m glad this was something he wanted.”

“Me too.” I realized we had talked almost exclusively about Mikey. “So your mom lives in town, right?”

“Yes,” she said. “I live with her. Well, her house has a private suite on the ground floor. That’s where I live. It’s just south of Brickhouse.”

“My sister lives in Brickhouse. That’s a pretty long commute, isn’t it?”

“It’s not that bad. There’s a park-and-ride at Northend Station, so I leave my car there. The train ride is about twenty minutes. Or sometimes I drive and take Mikey’s spot in the garage.”

“That’s the MAXX line, right?”


Just as Sophie looked toward the front door, Mikey showed up. He approached the table and said, “I see you guys have already met.”

“Yes,” said Sophie. “We’ve just been talking about you.”

“I’m going to pretend you’re not serious.” He sat down next to Sophie and smiled at me. “Sorry, they’re doing construction work on the garage so I had to move the car. This is what I get for driving.”

“You said you had something going on at lunch?” I asked.

“Yeah, we took a couple of clients out to eat,” said Sophie. “It was just easier to coordinate with a car.”

“They’re not clients yet,” Mikey added.

“We have a verbal agreement,” she clarified to me.

I nodded. “You guys sound so busy. I just kind of clock in, put in my time and leave at five.”

“Mikey’s getting good at leaving by five,” she said. “I’m trying.”

“You’re not trying,” Mikey said, grinning and turning to look around the room. He turned back to face her. “But you don’t stress, either.”

She silently accepted this. “Where did you move your car?”

“Southgate,” he said. “It’s free on weeknights. Did you know that?”

“That’s Westgate. You have to have a city pass for Southgate.”

“Fuck,” he said. “Or else what?”

“Or else they tow you, I’m guessing.”

Mikey pulled out his phone and looked it up. “Fuck,” he repeated. “You’re right.”

“I know I’m right.”

“Damn it. What a fucking pain.” He looked at me. “Are you okay here if I go and move it again? Sorry about this.”

“I’m sure I will survive,” I said. “Don’t worry about it.”

“Okay. You guys just order. Actually, get me the Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo if they come by before I’m back.”

Once he was gone, Sophie dug through her purse for her phone. “I’m going to ask him if he wants wine or beer to drink. He’s so ridiculous. Seriously.”

“He cracks me up,” I said.

After she finished texting she set down her phone. “Actually, I’m glad we have a little more time to talk. He told me a few things…” She paused. “Sorry, I don’t want to make this weird, it’s just that he told me you were gay, and the way he talks about you makes me wonder what he’s up to. I don’t know. I don’t mean to be brash.”

“It’s alright,” I said. “You can say whatever you want.”

“Okay. Well, the thing is, I’ve known Mikey my whole life. He’s like my brother. Sometimes it’s like…there are these things that I’ve come to understand about him, maybe even better than he does.”

“Yeah,” I said. “I can see how that would happen.”

“So let me ask you this. Are you interested in him at all? And I don’t mean to assume something like that. I’m honestly just curious.”

I searched for a helpful answer, since I was not sure of my own feelings. Suddenly I said, “I’m trying not to be.” I surprised myself with this statement, and immediately knew it to be true.

“Right,” she said. “Well, he’s an attractive person.” She glanced down at her napkin and folded it in half lengthwise, seemingly without intent, then looked back up at me. “I guess what I’m saying is, I wouldn’t give up waiting on him, if you’re interested. He’s truly a good guy. I promise you that. He’s the best one I know. He’s also very confused about himself. But the way he described you…” She looked past me for a moment, collecting her thoughts. “Well, most of all, he talked about you like you were golden, and I feel like he’s a good judge of that sort of thing. If he finds someone, I guess I just want it to be a person who shares some of his good qualities. Am I making any sense at all?”

I offered a small nod. “I think so.”

“I honestly believe he’ll figure himself out, even though it might still take some time. But I’m also taking your feelings into consideration. If I didn’t think he was worth your time and emotions, I would be telling you something very different right now.” She stopped herself. “If this is confusing at all, I’m sorry. I just felt like I should say something. I don’t even know if I’m reading the situation correctly.”

“I think you are. And what you’re saying is honestly very helpful. I’m grateful that you told me all of this.”

She pressed her hand against her chest. “Okay. That’s a relief.”

“Yeah,” I said. “It’s really considerate of you.”

“Good. I was debating all of this earlier today-you know, whether or not to say anything, if I had the chance.”

The server came by again. Mikey hadn’t responded so we ordered another glass of wine for him along with our three pasta dishes.

“It’s a carb explosion,” I said.

“All the best meals are.”

I laughed.

“So,” she said, “Mikey’s always telling me that I have trouble getting to the point. The truth is that I’ve been waiting for the day when he would start talking about a boy. It’s always been this imminent thing in my mind. A not-if-but-when kind of thing. It’s kind of selfish, but now that it’s here, I’ll do whatever I can to help the situation along. Even at the risk of you thinking I’m a crazy person.”

I laughed. “I really don’t think you’re crazy.”

“You’re very understanding. Anyway, I’ll try to talk to him about it soon. It’s just that I don’t want to push him away. It’s really the only thing he won’t open up about.”

“Actually…well…I don’t know. He told me he was going to try to get over some mental blocks, or something like that.”

She sat back. “Really? He told you that? Wow, he’s never said anything like that to me. He must really like you.”

“I don’t know.”

“Just give him some time. When he tells you he’ll do something, he’s good about following through.”

“Okay,” I said. “I will.”

I wished I had more time to give. I suspected now that one of the few things Sophie did not know about me was my impending departure. As Mikey returned once again to the table and took his seat, I considered that his lack of awareness concerning an elusive aspect of his being did isolate his experience from anyone’s. As grateful as I was that Sophie had disclosed these things to me, especially given the short time I’d known Mikey, I wondered if similar conversations ever transpired about me, between two people who shared my acquaintance, when my back was turned. Well-intentioned and untarnished by betrayal, the details she had relayed to me still felt like they were not yet mine to know.

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