It was a blessedly slow day in Keith's precinct, so he'd had a lot of time and little distraction to reconsider whether or not he should call David Fisher.
In column A: it was just a date. Not even a date - a late night hook-up, a booty call, two ships passing etc, etc, etc.
In column B:
Those eyelashes. The tremble he felt in David's hand when he barely touched the back of it. How much he wanted to take that hand in his own, turn it over, and press his lips gently into David's palm and say don't worry, baby, everything's gonna be all right.
But then there was column C: How disappointed he knew he would be if David turned him down, or, worse, didn't even bother to answer the phone.
And similarly, column D: David Fisher was still in the closet. It devastated Keith to think so, and all day he tried without success to convince himself it couldn't be.
As far as he was concerned, it was as good a reason not to call as it was a terrible reason.
Against his better judgement (which had really taken a beating lately) Keith used a police contact to trace David's phone number. When he discovered that the Fisher and Son's Mortuary was listed as David's home address, he made another decision that, in vain, he tried to talk himself out of.
After work, he drove to the Fisher house and parked across the street, waiting several minutes for his inner voice of reason to shut up before dialing David on his cell phone.
When David answered on the first ring, it was Keith's turn to be a little flustered.
"Well, it's me," he said.
"I know," David laughed, speaking barely above a whisper. "It's only 1:30. You must have gotten off early."
"Can I come over?"
"No," David said quickly. "I mean ....it's not a good idea. My parents live here, too. And my sister."
"Don't you have your own room? Or, we can sit in the...," Keith tried to think of another word for living room. "Parlor?"
"Maybe we can just talk on the phone for a while. It's so late."
"I'm parked outside."
"I'm parked outside. The black Explorer. That's me."
There was a quiet rustle. A long, muffled pause.
Then, through the telephone receiver, Keith heard a door opening, some footsteps. He peered into the darkness toward the Fisher house, until he could make out David coming around from the back. He'd pulled on a hooded sweatshirt, and was hugging it to himself as he approached the car. Keith realized he was still holding the phone to his mouth at about the same time David noticed he was, too. They both laughed. Keith rolled down the window. David hesitated, then leaned forward to peer inside. Keith reached up, touched David lightly on the shoulder, then pulled him towards him - very gently - and kissed him chastely on the lips. David didn't pull away, but he didn't kiss back, either.
"Can you go for a ride?" Keith asked.
"You'll have to bring me right back, " David answered. He had jammed his hands into the pockets of his sweatshirt, although it was a mild summer night.
"You don't turn into a pumpkin, do you?"
"Not so far."
Keith opened the passenger door.
As David climbed in, he asked: "How did you know where I lived?"
"I looked up the funeral home in the phonebook," Keith lied. "I took a chance you lived there."
He thought about it for a minute as he warmed up the engine. "Are you okay with that?" he asked.
As Keith put the car in gear, he said: "Actually, I got it through a police computer - traced it through your phone number. I'm sorry, that was wrong."
David smiled, and Keith started to relax "It's kind of nice. People don't ordinarily go to a lot of trouble for me."
"I can't imagine why not," Keith said. They were paused at a stop sign. Keith reached over and squeezed David's shoulder. "You're okay with it, then?"
"As long as you're okay with my stalking you, sure."
"You're way, cool, David," Keith said.
"I'm not, though," David said. "I'm really not. I'm going to hate it when you find that out. But at least I told you."
They drove in silence for awhile. Keith had intended to hit the freeway and head to his apartment in Hollywood, but instead, he cruised the streets of David's neighborhood, not really going anywhere.
"My parents know I'm gay," Keith said, after awhile. "My friends, my colleagues - they all know. In fact, I'm part of an organization for gay cops and firefighters."
David nodded in perfect understanding, dreading what was coming. He stared straight ahead, into the night, and Keith realized the answer to his question before he asked it. So he didn't.
He pulled the car into an all-night gas station/mini-mart.
Turning to David, he asked: "Do you want a Twinkie? Slurpie? Burrito?"
David cracked up. Literally. He felt around the side of the car for the door latch, not knowing what he'd do if he found it. Get out? Walk home? Run into the night screaming "Life SUCKS"?
"I like you, I do, " he said, without turning to look at Keith. "I have no idea why you're interested in me. I'm still not convinced this isn't some evil joke left over from when I was in high school. You didn't go to JFK in Burbank, did you?"
"No," Keith laughed.
"Thank God for that. I just want you to know, honestly and truly, I was NOT stalking you."
Keith reached for David, but he pressed himself into the door, away from Keith's open hand.
"I wish I were anyone but me right now, because then I'd know I'd have half a chance of NOT disappointing you. But I AM me. I can't do this. I'm sorry."
Keith contemplated some little smudge on his windshield for a long time.
"I shouldn't have been so pushy," he said, really meaning it.
"It's not you."
"I know it's not me, David, don't worry about that. I..." he stopped talking. He wanted to give himself a chance to back out now - it would be easier on both of them if he just bailed.
But he couldn't.
He thought about David in church - the accidental parishioner who wouldn't look anyone in the eye, couldn't stay until the end of the service for fear of human interaction, wouldn't smile, could barely lift his face into the light so that the shadows slipped away revealing the tender man beneath the sullen facade.
Keith said, "Do you know that your eyelashes look like the little whisk brooms that umpires use to clean home plate?"
Keith started the car, willing himself to not feel so embarassed.
"I'm going to take you home, " he said. "I'm going to let you get a good night's sleep, relatively speaking. And then I'm going to call you, and ask you out to the movies. Dinner. Whatever. You can say no, maybe. Maybe later. Maybe next week, next month. Or, you can just say....see you at church next Sunday. And we'll take it from there."
He stopped in front of Fisher and Sons. Without hesitating, David leaned over and kissed him on the cheek, then quickly got out of the car and walked towards the side of the house, in the direction he'd come when Keith first saw him that morning. He turned around. Keith waited expectantly. David reached into the pocket of his sweatshirt, pulled out his phone and held it up to his ear.
"Call me!" he said, in an exaggerated stage whisper.
Keith laughed, relieved, and drove back to Hollywood, praying to God this wouldn't keep him awake all night.
Continue to part 4.