Ever since the discussion with Eloisa in the garden H-C’s restlessness has grown to outrage. She felt she could no longer rationalize being patient or being in control of her behavior. H-C entered his account from her computer. She explored his email. His secrets. Sent emails. Received email. Craig’s list. Pictures. Disbelief.
What was the history? On the computer. Who was the damn play about the king or himself.? H-C felt light, teeming with angry validation.
She made her way to Elias’ house while he was at Sunday dinner. She went straight for the computer to check his history of contacts. She no longer felt like a voyeur. She next went through his documents. In shock at the pictures that were there, her anger turned to fear.
She drove home alternating turning off and on the radio for noise, distraction, but it turned out to be another irritation. If the newscaster would have said that the world was ending she wouldn’t have noticed. Her world was crumbling. When she arrived home she carried an expanding vacuous cavity within her chest and a ball of fire in her gut. Her head ached. She felt filthy. Removing her clothing, she made her way to the shower.
She turned on the water, stepped in and let the hot water run on her skin until she was scalded and could feel the pain. Next she turned the hot water completely off and let the cold water run over her fresh wounds.
Several hours later H-C placed the call to Elias on his cell phone.
“Elias, we need to meet, tonight.”
“Umm, I don’t have time to meet tonight. I planned on working the script.”
“We need to meet tonight.”
“Heather-Celeste, what’s going on?”
“Meet me at O’Durke’s at nine o’clock. This is mandatory”.
“Okay, sure. What’s this about? Are we going to be talking about marriage again because if we are shouldn’t we save it for counseling?”
“O’Durke’s at nine o’clock.” Click.
H-C purposely tried to look radiant. She’d chosen her green silk halter dress that accentuated her rear end. Halfway through drinks H-C began.
“I’m leaving you Elias.”
Elias accidently pulled the tablecloth. Dijon mustard and water fell onto his shirt.
“What? What is going on?”
“I saw them. I saw them.” H-C placed her tongue on the roof of her mouth to block a scream from erupting.
“You saw what?”
“Your things on your computer. The emails to men. The pictures you sent and what you asked them for. I saw it all. I saw your history.”
Elias breath quickened and became shallow. “When?”
“Let’s get the check and walk.” She was giving the orders now.
“How could you have gone on my computer, in my house? How dare you?”
“After six years, you’re really going to try to make this about me and what conniving things I did? Lying for six years. Using up my precious time. How dare you! Elias be a decent person and tell me the truth, at this point you owe at least that much to me.”
They walked in silence for nine blocks. She stared everywhere but at him.
“I never have had any contact with any of those men.” His hands were shoved deep into his pant pockets.
“Then what the hell were you doing then, huh? Explain that to me? Are you gay or bisexual? What are you? Tell me.”
“I don’t know.” He shrugged.
“So many hours doubting myself. So much time wasted on you.”
“I don’t know. I loved being with you and…I don’t know, I’ve never given myself the opportunity to fully think about it. I thought it would go away and then we could be together and have a family.”
They continued walking, H-C attempting to wrestle the truth from Elias, Elias walking in a fog. They had found their way to the garden below the studio. A bench
Eloisa had salvaged sat underneath a buddleia bush. The two sat and held pinkies, sad and defeated, both exhausted from crying and burning emotions. H-C swore she saw an alligator tail swatting at two months circling Elias’ head.
“H-C,” Elias looked her straight in the eyes, “You have never done anything wrong or betrayed me. I need to say this. I feel ashamed and I don’t want to feel this way anymore. I like men. I am attracted to men, but I’ve never been with any. I don’t know how to be in a world that will reject me for who I’m with. I also love you. I am attracted to you. You have been my friend for so long. I can’t imagine life without you. H-C, I am so sorry that I used you and your time. I am a selfish man. I lack courage. I can’t give you your time spent with me back.”
Her face collapsed into her hands, great heaves rocked her body forward.
“What I don’t understand is, this is the twenty-first century. Most of your good friends are gay. Why couldn’t you just come out?”
He remained quiet and pensive for a time, she wringing her heart for answers.
“I can still hear my dad calling Mr. Young names. Faggot. Homo. Queer. He said it with such hate, behind Mama’s back. I think he was jealous of their relationship. I don’t know. One time he stared at me real hard and his expression changed. It had a bit of panic or something. Then he said, ‘Don’t become like him.’ I knew he meant Mr. Young.” He paused to stretch his neck to the sides. “I wanted him to be proud of me. Even now, I still want that. But how can I continue living a lie?”
They sat while she heaved, and he tentatively opened to a new life. She turned to face him, looking as if crying tears of joy.
“It wasn’t about me. For so long I thought it was about me and me being inadequate. It has all to do with you, not me. To keep your secret you did anything to hide including invalidating me and my intuition. I am angry with you but I’m also free from trying to make sense of this. I was loyal, I believed you, I hurt myself. I can’t get my time back but I can move on. I don’t have to prove to you that I am worthy.” Elias reached for her hand and she let him take it. “Because it wasn’t about that at all. I’m sorry that I didn’t want to see who you really are. Aria always has talked about your alligator tail. I see it now, I saw it before but tucked it away just like you did.”
H-C broke down sobbing, again. Elias began to sob too, both of them in the zone where together they did best, comforting each other.
H-C said, “You need help, and I need help. And when you find it, I need to speak and you need to listen. I’m sorry that in this world you’ve not been allowed to be who you are. I am sorry for myself, too. I can’t get that time back.”
“Please Elias, enough.”