I thought I could just let it go. It had been a great night, after a lousy start. The sex had been so hot. The kind where you close your eyes and you can feel it all over again the next day. And it hadn’t just been sex. We’d talked, we’d held each other. He’d told me he wouldn’t call Jake Patterson and I’d believed him. He’d told me he’d had nothing to do with him all this time. I’d believed that, too. I’d felt loved and secure. I’d felt like we were getting over this.
I’d started to get up with Ezra in the morning, but Adam had stopped me. “Go back to sleep,” he’d said. “You were up late. I’ll deal with him.”
“I wasn’t up late by myself. It seems to me you were the guy I was fucking half the night.” He laughed at that. “You’ve got to be tired, too. And you’re working. I’ve got nothing on today.”
“All the more reason. I’ll get him ready, and take the babies to day care on my way to the office.”
“It’s my day.”
“Take a day off.”
“You’re so good to me.”
“I’m in love with you. Good to you comes with the territory.” And I’d gone back to sleep.
When I woke, I was alone in the apartment. At loose ends. I couldn’t settle on doing anything. I found myself pacing back and forth, picking up a book but not reading it, starting to make the bed and then stopping with the covers half-way up. I thought of going out, but I couldn’t settle on where to go or what to do.
And no matter how hard I tried not to, I found myself thinking of Jake Patterson. Why hadn’t Adam told me Jake was trying to contact him? Why would he hide that? And what would Jake be so insistent on calling Adam about all this time later? After a one-night stand? A year ago? No further contact? It seemed so unlikely. So, then I’d ask myself again if I really believed there had been no further contact. And that took me right back to where I was months ago, driving myself half crazy with speculation. Was Adam lying to me?
So there I was, traveling the old familiar territory, and kicking myself for caring so much about this. Really, most of the gay couples we know would think it was absurd to even object to your lover doing it with someone else when you’re separated. Someone he was never going to see again. Well, the bare backing part anybody would be mad about, I’m sure. After all, that could endanger my health as well as his own. And in order to not endanger my health, we had to go back to safer sex until we could be sure he wasn’t infected. That was a pain.
Although, vraiment, we had to play safe anyway, because of my own exposure. But Adam didn’t know that was going to happen when he let Jake Patterson fuck him bareback.
Maybe Walter’s death is part of why this whole thing bothered me so much. I had enough to worry about right then without dealing with this complication, bien sur! My best friend killed, his blood all over me. I couldn’t save him. And then I find out he was HIV+ and never told me. So I’m dealing with the grief and with the regret and second-guessing myself. If only I’d managed to get them before they got Walter. I had spent so many sleepless nights going over that battle again and again in my head, beating myself up over how it came out, trying to think what I could have done differently. I was consumed with self-doubt.
That wasn’t all, though. There was anger, too. How could Walter keep something like that from me? And I felt shame, as well, since I knew he had good reason to think I couldn’t handle that information. All of that emotional turmoil at once and happening in the middle of a war. A war on my kind, not Adam’s. This is when I should have been able to count on Adam to support me emotionally. Not the time for him to decide he’d like to see what it’s like to get fucked by some keen bean junior reporter.
Even as I thought it, though, I knew I wasn’t being fair to him. It had been a hard time for Adam, too. As hard as it was for me, maybe. He was as affected by the war as any of us. And he felt powerless to do anything about it. And incompetent and inferior as well. Spending all his time among mutants, feeling like a member of a less evolved subspecies. He’d chosen to share my fate – our fate – and we’d moved to the Outpost looking for peace and quiet. Suddenly we have war instead, and everyone around Adam was in the resistance, while he was a non-combatant. So, of course he seizes on the first chance he has to do something for the underground, when Charles Xavier gives him a mission. And of course he’s disappointed when I refuse to go with him.
I’ve heard that everyone will cheat on his lover if the circumstances are right. I don’t know if it’s true, but I know the circumstances were as right – or as wrong – as they could have been for Adam. Mad at me, alone, in circumstances where he had to lie about our life together. Feeling insecure about himself. And this young guy who really admires him comes on to him. Someone from his world, someone not like me. If ever he was going to cheat, that was the time. I knew that. I knew, as well, that he’d taken responsibility for what he did. He had really worked at understanding how it had happened so that he could ensure he wouldn’t do it again.
He had been so sorry, and had tried so hard to make amends. He tried to learn from what happened. He swore he’d never do it again. I’d been really tough on him, I know, and he took it. He never once told me I was going overboard, putting too much importance on a one-night stand. I think few men would have shown such restraint. He accepted my anger at him. He listened and supported me and grieved with me over Walter. Vraiment, what could Adam have done that he didn’t do?
Well, he could have not done it in the first place. But, given that he did, what more could I ask of him? Isn’t everyone allowed one mistake? Wouldn’t I have wanted him to forgive me if our positions had been reversed? Yet perhaps that was part of the problem. I couldn’t imagine our positions reversed. I was sure I wouldn’t cheat on Adam and had been equally sure he wouldn’t cheat on me. Was I angry because of what he’d done, or because it demonstrated that there is no certainty?
I’d pretty much convinced myself that I just needed to get over this and stop obsessing about Jake Patterson’s call and what it might mean. Adam had earned my love and my trust. We couldn’t spend the rest of our lives together with me still resenting what was clearly a meaningless sexual exploit. Adam said he wasn’t calling him and I believed that. It was time to just stop thinking about it.
So, that’s what I decided to do. I needed something to occupy myself, to focus my mind. I figured I’d call Scott Summers and talk to him more about this townhouse idea. I picked up a pad of paper and a pen from off the kitchen counter, so I could take notes while I talked to Cyclops. Before I called him, though, out of the pad fell a scrap. A little piece of paper. Written on it, in Anjuli’s messy handwriting, was “Jake Patterson 415 555-2619.” I put it in my pocket. I didn’t call. Not then. I called Scott, just like I’d planned.
Adam was working late that night, out interviewing someone somewhere. Anjuli and Hank were at Anjuli’s sister’s place, so it was just Ezra and me. He was playing after dinner and I’d sat down to read. And that paper was still in my pocket. I didn’t have to look at it again. I knew the number. He won’t even be there, I thought. So why am I thinking of calling him? Just to hear what his voicemail sounds like? What do I think it’s going to say? “This is Jake Patterson. I’m fucking Adam Greenfield behind his lover’s back and he doesn’t suspect a thing.” I laughed at myself for that. But a minute later I was dialing the phone.
It’s three hours earlier in San Francisco. I’d forgotten that. He answered the phone. “Patterson.”
I almost hung up but I didn’t. “Jake Patterson? From the Chronicle?”
“Yes, this is Jake. Who’s speaking?”
“Jean-Paul Beaubier?” He repeated my name. I thought at first he would ask who I am and why I was calling. I didn’t know what I was going to say. But then he said, “I’ve been looking for you everywhere! I’m so glad you called. Who told you I wanted to speak to you?”
“Adam Greenfield.” I don’t know why I said that. Why would Adam have told me to call Jake Patterson?
“Great, great. I didn’t even know you and Adam know each other. Tell him to call me, if he gets a chance. I’m having trouble getting hold of him, too. Anyway, I really want to talk to you. It’s for a story I’m working on. Do you have some time now?”
At that moment Ezra came in with his wind up train. “Une minute, mon petit,” I said in response to his request to play. “Maybe not right now,” I added to Jake.
“Fine. Can we make an appointment?” We agreed to meet at his office the next day. He said he’d be glad to interview me over the phone, but I told him I wanted to meet him. “Is he yours?” he asked before we hung up.
“Yes, he is.”
“Eighteen months. Why?”
“Just interested. I like kids. He sounds adorable. What’s his name?”
"Nice name. See you tomorrow.”
We met at the Chronicle’s offices on Mission Street, at noon. Jake Patterson was tall, loose-limbed, with dark hair, bright eyes, and a warm and friendly manner. “Thanks for coming here,” he said, after introducing himself. “Do you live in San Francisco?”
“No, I haven’t been here for years,” I replied. “I live on the East Coast.” He looked surprised. “Travel isn’t a problem,” I added.
“Yes, of course. I forgot.”
He’d made reservations for lunch at The Slanted Door, a Vietnamese restaurant on the water. All post-modern and sleek, with very attractive sleek-looking waiters to match. Jake Patterson was certainly keeping my attention, and that of a few of the waiters it seemed, as well.
So this was the man Adam had cheated on me with. I’d expected him to be predatory, sexually aggressive. If he was, I wasn’t seeing it. He was attracting attention, bien sur, from both men and women, but he seemed totally oblivious to it. He was charming, with an open and comfortable way about him. And remarkably attractive. Body of an athlete, classic face. Beautiful luminous eyes. That smile. I found myself trying to amuse him, just to see it more often.
As it turned out, he was writing about mutants in sports and wanted to interview me about skiing, and particularly about my having been a closeted mutant at the Olympics. I told him I didn’t feel like an athlete at all anymore, but I answered his questions. And told him a few amusing anecdotes about international skiing, just to see that electric smile again.
He asked to see pictures of Ezra and I showed them to him. He seemed genuinely interested in him and asked a lot of questions, seeming to speak with knowledge and understanding. “Do you have kids?” I asked.
“No, but I hope to some day.”
“You seem to know a lot for a childless guy.”
“I’m the eldest of five. I’ve had a lot of experience with babies.”
He’d known about Joanne, and asked – tentatively, respectfully – what it was like to try again. He assumed I was a single parent again this time and I didn’t correct him on that score, but talked about other ways it was a different experience this time around. I was impressed by how well he listened, by how he didn’t push me to say more than I wanted to. I found that his restraint made me want to say more.
I was prepared to hate him. Bien sur, I wanted to hate him. Jake Patterson. The name had been this ominous presence interfering with my relationship with Adam. But Jake Patterson the man didn’t seem ominous at all. I was enjoying being with him, found myself wanting to spend more time with him. And I was aware – uncomfortably aware – that I was very attracted to him. He reminded me of Kolya a little – beautiful, athletic, confident. And somehow not even aware of his own attractiveness. Not an ounce of vanity.
“I know what you mean about it feeling like so long ago,” he said. “I used to be a runner.”
“You don’t run anymore?”
He shook his head. “Not competitively. I train when I can, but I’m in no shape for it.”
“You look like you’re in pretty good shape.”
“Well, you can’t tell in clothes.” He said it without any trace of seductiveness, but it made me imagine him naked, imagine taking those clothes off of him. And what I’d like to do after I did.
He picked up a piece of Shaking Beef with his chopsticks and held it out to me. “You have to try this,” he said. “They’re famous for it.” I touched his hand briefly as I took it from him.
“How do you know Adam Greenfield?” he asked and I nearly choked on it.
“We met through the mutant cleansing crisis in Belarus,” I replied, after I swallowed. “You know Adam’s role in that?”
“Yes, yes. Brilliant stories. And getting Cherevko out – he was so brave. Some say journalists err when we go from reporting news to being news, that we have to stay out of the story. But how could you stay out when you have a chance like that? A chance to save someone? I think that whole episode shows you can be a journalist and be human too, you know?”
I nodded. “Sasha Cherevko is an old friend of mine,” I told him. “I contacted Adam to find Sasha, when Adam first brought him to America. I wanted to do what I could for him.”
“Are you still in contact? Cherevko’s why I was trying to get hold of Adam. I wanted to interview him for this story. Is he okay? What is he doing?”
I filled him in on Sasha’s life of late. I told Jake I’d seen Sasha just last week, and that he was well and very much recovered. “He’s getting married next month,” I added. “We’ll be in Westchester for the wedding.” Saying “we” is such a habit I didn’t notice until I’d said it, but Jake seemed to assume I meant Ezra and myself. I told him I’d ask Sasha to call him.
“How do you know Adam?” I asked him later.
“Oh we dated for a while.” My suspicions were aroused by that. But then he thought better of what he’d said. “No we didn’t, not really.”
“What a strange thing to say.”
“I was just rewriting history,” he said, shrugging in a self-deprecating manner. “It’s what I wish happened. Well, you know him – you know what he’s like. Brilliant, hot, funny. I met him last year at a convention here, during the war. We spent one night together.”
“And I got drunk and acted like a complete jerk and he made clear he never wanted to see me again.” He shook his head ruefully. “That’s probably why he won’t return my calls. Can’t stand talking to me. Even about business. I was such an asshole to him, you can’t imagine.”
“One night stands don’t generally lead to anything.”
“No, I know that. I’ve had my share.” He smiled, then shook his head again. “I know. I’m being pathetic, ridiculous. And indiscreet, too, considering I have no idea how well you know Adam or whether you’ll tell him I was crying in my beer over him. Stupid to get so worked up over this. You’re right. It was nothing but a one-night stand and it was a long time ago. It’s stupid to go on like this, particularly to someone I just met.” Jake shrugged and took another swig of his beer. He was really very good-looking. He gazed at me, those beautiful eyes locked on mine. “It’s a common story, no more interesting, I’m sure, in my case than anyone else’s. I had one night with him – one chance – and I blew it. Maybe he wouldn’t have wanted to see me again, anyway. Like you said, it doesn’t usually lead to anything. But if I hadn’t been a drunken oaf, I feel like I might have had a chance with him. A guy like Adam Greenfield doesn’t come into your life very often. I fucked up. I’m not living like a monk or anything because of it, but I think of him. A lot. I guess he’s sort of the one who got away.”
I reached out and took his hand. “Copain,” I said, “I have a word of advice for you.”
“Don’t talk so much about the one who got away. Not to the one who’s right in front of you. He might lose interest.”
He looked astonished, then like he was trying to make sure he’d understood me correctly. He didn’t say anything for a while. “Do you want to come back to my place?” he finally said.
“Très bien. You’re a quick study.”