Palouse by vwl






Chapter 37

Retrieval – January 1996

A Week Later – in the New Year



             “Can I induce you to come with me to Seattle?” Micah asked. It was the next weekend after the New Year’s party.

            “What’s wrong? You don’t trust your crappy pickup?”

            “I trust it. I just want you to come – for moral support. Plus, your car really is more reliable – and comfortable.”

            “But, tell me, why do you want to really go to Seattle.”

            “I want to get a violin.”

            “You already have a violin.”

            “But not a Guarneri. Two friends of my brother Robert bought a violin for me to use when I was…well, when I was performing like a professional, but when I, uh, lost my senses, I returned it. Actually, Mom forced me to return it, and I hate to say it, but she was right.  However, they said I could have it back when I was ready. I’m ready.”

            “When do you want to go?”

            “Right now?”

            “On a Friday night? You are impetuous, Micah. I love you for it, but let’s go first thing in the morning instead so we don’t have to drive through the mountains at night. Okay?”

            “Okay,” Micah said, half in disappointment. He leaned over to kiss David, which led to another kiss, deeper and more sensuous. Micah scooted his body up to David’s, and they spent the rest of the evening enjoying each other’s body warmth and talking about nothing in particular. It was a comfortable way to pass the time. They both knew, however, that they were about to take their relationship to another level. In the meantime, they fell asleep fully clothed on David’s bed.

            The next morning was cold and crisp with the seemingly ever-present sun of Eastern Washington rising into a clear day. David scraped the light coating of ice from his windshield as he let the engine start to warm the inside of the car. He had checked the road report for Snoqualmie Pass, and I-90 was open with no chains required. The weather for Seattle called for light rain. He didn’t know that the weather in Seattle in January almost always called for light rain. He had packed an overnight bag, which was in the back, and they had stopped at Micah’s dorm for him to do the same. Micah emerged from the dorm, threw his bag in the waiting car and hopped into the front seat, rubbing his hands together against the cold. They took off west on U.S. 12.

            It was early enough that there wasn’t much traffic on the two-lane highway, so it was easy to pass an occasional farm truck.

            “Look, a Mondrian sky,” David remarked, pointing out the windshield. “See how those jet contrails make a square frame around a piece of sky. It must be two jets coming north from LA or San Francisco and two others east from Seattle and Portland. It’s just like a Mondrian painting I saw in Chicago. Wow.”

            If I could frame the sky and present it to you, I would, Micah thought.

            The flat fields on each side were highlighted by the hills in the distance as they descended the Snake River Valley before a turn to the north at the Columbia River. Across the river, the Horse Heaven Hills rose 800 feet above the other bank.

            David turned his Civic right towards Pasco where they would cross the Columbia and drive onto a divided interstate that would join I-90 and take them into Seattle. They stopped at Toppenish for breakfast, where Micah took over the driving. Soon they were climbing the sagebrush-covered hills through the Army’s Yakima Training Center. At I-90 they turned west, climbed the pass and descended into Seattle, switching driving chores, stopping only at the Snoqualmie Summit ski lodge to have coffee.

            Micah guided David toward Jake and Robbie’s house. “I hope they’re home,” he said.


            “I hope they’re home.”

            “You can’t be serious. You hope they’re home?  I can’t believe this. Well, actually I can. You didn’t telephone to tell them you were coming?” David said in exasperation.

            “I was afraid.”

            “Of what, for Christ’s sake?” David couldn’t hide a bit of irritation.

            “I’m sorry, David. I didn’t mean to make you angry.”

            “Micah, you may be the most-almost-famous violinist in the world, but sometimes you have the organization of a fruit fly.”

            “We can go back, if you want.”

            “God, I can’t believe this,” David said as he banged his palm against his forehead. “We drive five fucking hours and you want us to turn around! Let’s try their house and then make a decision.”

            They took Mercer Street to Queen Anne Avenue, climbed the hill, turned left and took the street to Jake and Robbie’s across the top of Queen Anne Hill.

            “Are you sure they still live there?”

            “I don’t know. I didn’t think of that.”

            David started to sputter a response and then realized how amusing this road trip was turning out to be and how strong Micah’s confidence was. He started to snicker, and he put his arm around Micah’s shoulder, pulling him in for a hug.

            “What!? What?!”

            “God, Micah, I love you, but you have the sense of a gnat and the faith of a Bible thumper sometimes. You owe me a really nice lunch if this is a wild-goose chase.”

            They found a spot to park on the street, got out and walked up to the house and Micah rang the doorbell.


            Micah rang the doorbell again.

            “Maybe they are just out for a while,” Micah offered plaintively.

            David rolled his eyes. Maybe they’re in Italy on vacation, he thought. "Maybe they sold the house to a cocaine dealer who is suspicious of unannounced and unscheduled callers, and who has ways of discouraging repeat visits.

            As they were about to turn to leave, Jake opened the door. He was in a bathrobe, and his hair was wet from a shower. He looked closely at Micah as if he didn’t fully recognize him after five years. “Micah?” he asked.

            “Yes, it’s me.”

            “Come on in. It’s good to see you again.” Jake turned to David expectantly.

            “David, this is Jake. Jake, this is, uh, my boyfriend, David.” Both David and Jake noticed the choice of words and the hesitation. Jake looked back and forth between the two visitors trying to assess how much boyfriend the boyfriend was. David looked at Micah as if Micah had shouted on the rooftops his love for David. Not that he was displeased, but he was surprised that the kiss of a week earlier had become something larger so quickly. He put his arm around Micah’s waist as Jake led them into the house. Jake noted the gesture.

            “Robbie’s still in bed – reading,” Jake looked at Micah, now holding David’s hand tightly, possessively. “I wore him out last night.” He walked to the base of the stairs and shouted: “Robbie! We’ve got company.”

            “Do I need to dress?”

            “You can come naked, if you want. I’m sure our guests would understand.” Jake laughed as Micah and David turned crimson. “Think of it. Nude descending a staircase. Sounds artsy-fartsy.”

            Robbie arrived shortly in a bathrobe, with his hair brushed to presentability. “Micah! I’ve wondered about you!” he said as he took Micah in his arms in a long hug of greeting.

            “Well, I suppose I’ve been someone to wonder about,” Micah said ruefully.

            “And this is…?” Robbie asked, turning to David.

            “That’s David,” Jake offered, with no additional information, verbal or otherwise.

            “Hi. Micah thinks I’m his boyfriend, but I’m really only his chauffeur.”

            “Jake, I think we have another smartass in the family,” Robbie said.

            Robbie offered David a high five, which was accepted with a grin. “Okay, let’s get down to serious business. Have you guys eaten breakfast?”

            David and Micah both nodded.

            Jake looked at his watch. “Oh, have you guys eaten lunch?”

            David and Micah both shook their heads.

            “Did they lose their tongues, Robbie?”

            David and Micah both nodded their heads again, then broke the silence with guffaws. Any ice in the relationship had been successfully melted.

            “Okay,” Jake said, “give us a few minutes; we’ll go find something to eat. For the time being, there’s some coffee in the kitchen that I just made. Help yourself.”

            “Is that Jake Cantwell?” David asked incredulously after Jake had disappeared up the stairs.

            “Yeah. Why?”

            David just shook his head. Micah was unbelievably naïve at times.

            A freshly showered Robbie and a casually dressed Jake emerged fifteen minutes later, ready for breakfast/lunch. They ushered Micah and a wondering David into their elevator, descended to the level of the street below and emerged into the garage. David was in awe that there would be a six-story elevator in the middle of a residence. Robbie guided them to his Volvo, and they set off for Macrina Bakery and Café. It took only one trip around the block to find a place to park. Furthermore, they had only to wait ten minutes to get an empty table for four. They were lucky, because the restaurant only seated about thirty.

            Brunch, as it turned out, was a casual affair as the four men took the opportunity to get acquainted, leaving the serious issues that they all knew loomed for later. Micah took the occasion to check how Jake and Robbie had aged, or not, over the five years since he had been there. There was a bit more gray at the temples, maybe, and a few more crow’s feet at the eyes, but Jake and Robbie appeared little changed otherwise.

            For his part, David was more interested in looking at Jake and comparing him to the screen image as the lead in romantic-comedy movies. David had followed the career of Jake Cantwell. He knew he had left a software company with his fortune, turned to stage acting and ultimately was recognized by Hollywood. He knew Jake Cantwell was gay. He hadn’t realized that the Jake that Micah was talking about was Jake Cantwell, the actor.

            “Earth to David. Earth to David,” Micah said. “Meet Jake Cantwell, actor extraordinaire, but he’s really Jake Ellis-Cantwell, husband extraordinaire, so put your tongue back in your mouth. You can get an autograph later. He’s really an ordinary guy.”

            “Micah called me ordinary,” Jake complained to Robbie.

            “Well, you were only nominated for an Academy Award this year. You didn’t win this time, after all,” Robbie said. “You were an ordinary also-ran.”

            “I didn’t want to extend my lead over you.”

            “You’re only two points ahead of me,” Robbie said, with mock exasperation. Micah and David looked bewildered.

            “We have this game that when one of us scores an advantage on the other, that one gets a point on the air ledger. Like this…” Jake proceeded to lick his finger and strike it through the air. “Robbie is on the right; I’m on the left. If I get too far ahead, I let Robbie catch up.”

            Robbie put his hand on Jake’s chin, pulled it back three inches and let loose with a middle-finger signal, causing bemusement all around the table and at the adjoining table where a couple in their 30s was trying not to pay obvious attention.

            “It never occurred to me that you were the Jake Cantwell until we got here,” David said.

            “I’m not here as Jake Cantwell, the actor,” Jake chided. “I’m Jake Ellis-Cantwell, friend of Micah Kingman. No more, no less.”

            David looked abashed. “Can I secretly have your autograph, though?”

            Jake took David’s left hand in his, removed a pen from his pocket and signed his name on David’s palm. “There.”

            David looked at the signature. “So, if I don’t wash this ever, it’ll be a collectible when I get old. Of course, preserving it will wreak havoc with my sex life.”

            “You use your left hand?” Jake asked with a naïve-sounding tone. David’s cheeks turned a deep red. “I guess that answers that. Have you thought about a monastery?” The table broke into raucous laughter.

            Robbie signaled for the check and refused to let David or Micah pay. They finished their coffees as the credit card was processed.

            “You guys obviously have something on your minds,” Robbie noted as they climbed into his Volvo. “Do you want to talk about it now, or, better, do you want to relax this afternoon, spend the night and talk about it in the morning? We have two tickets to the Seattle Repertory Theater tonight, and we can get two more if you would like to go? They always can find tickets for former lead actors.”

            David said, “It’s up to Micah. I’ll do what he wants to do. But…we don’t have any clothes for the theater.”

            “Not to worry. This is Seattle. Jeans and tennis shoes are acceptable,” Jake offered. “We could go to the Museum of Flight this afternoon. They have the first Air Force One there and a Concorde, plus a lot of old airplanes.”

            “Micah?” David asked. Micah nodded.

            “Okay. The Museum of Flight and the theater it is,” Jake said.

            Robbie was glad. He thought he knew what Micah was going to ask, but he needed some time to assess whether lending the violin to Micah again would pay off. He wanted to make sure of Micah’s commitment to restarting his career. For Micah’s sake, he didn’t want to see a repeat of the abandonment of his talent. And he could sense that David was somehow a part of this equation now, but he couldn’t read David yet. Jake was better at that sort of thing. David seemed the more mature of the two; of course, he wasn’t the artist in the relationship. It turned out that Jake was thinking the same things, as Robbie found out later that night when they were talking over the day’s events before their evening releases.

            The afternoon passed quickly at the airplane museum. They stopped off briefly on Queen Anne, where Jake and Robbie got dressed, casually, for the theater, then drove out to Shilshole, to Ray’s Boathouse, where they all enjoyed salmon prepared in one form or another while they looked out at Puget Sound through the window table from time to time as they ate.

            The play was a fine production of Wendy Wasserstein’s The Sisters Rosensweig in its world-premiere season, and at its conclusion, after a full day, they all were ready to head home.

            “I’ll show you where you can sleep,” Robbie said as he led the two young men up the stairs. “There are some fresh towels on the dresser. If you want a glass of port, come back down. Jake and I are going to have a nightcap.”

            “I think I’ll pass,” Micah said. “It’s been a long day.”

            “If you don’t mind, Micah, I’ll take Robbie up on his offer.”

            Micah nodded his assent and was already taking off his clothes as the other two left the room.

* * * * *

            Robbie, Jake and David sat in the den, with the lights of Seattle out the window and glasses of Warre 1974 Vintage Port in hand. Robbie and Jake were glad that they had an opportunity to talk to David alone. They had a lot of questions.

            But David asked first. “Jake, how did you get to Hollywood from a software company?”

            “What are you, some kind of fan-mag reporter?”

            “Er, no.”

            “I was just joking. When our startup company, Molini, got bought out, I had plenty of money to do anything I wanted to do – to follow most any dream I wanted to follow. I worked a couple more years for Molini then started to do amateur theater. When the Seattle Repertory Theater offered me a good, professional role, I decided it was time to change careers – into one that I’d always wanted to do: acting.”

            “Jake is really good, and he keeps getting better and better roles,” Robbie said.

            “Don’t embarrass me, luv. Anyway, I got an opportunity to go to Hollywood, and after a monster fight with my husband, I went.”

            “I didn’t want him to tell anyone he was gay,” Robbie chimed in. “I wanted him to fill the gossip rags with juicy tidbits of dates and nights with leading ladies. I wanted him to have a career as a sex symbol as well as actor; but I was selfish, too, because I wanted to have the life that the spouse of a top actor has – the parties, the awards ceremonies – but at a Seattle distance. Jake refused to be anyone different from what he was – and I’m glad.” Robbie poured some more port into the glasses.

            Jake continued: “I said that I knew who I was, and I could play any role, gay or straight, and the audience should judge me on my performance, not my sexual preference. But the fight we had was intense, to say the least. But enough about us, who are you?”

            “My name is David Stirling, and I’ve been out since I was fourteen. I’m gay.”

            “What is this?” Jake cracked. “An AA meeting?”

            “Despite what my wise-ass lifemate says, what we really want to know is your and Micah’s relationship.”

            David paused for a long time. “I’ve had a crush on Micah since I was thirteen, but he was straight then – and a bit into himself. Then he disappeared from my life as he became famous. Then, as you know, he became a famous young violinist, and then he disappeared from the music scene altogether.

             “We met again when I saw him playing his violin on the streets of Walla Walla, busking for pocket money – which he probably doesn’t need since his earnings from his playing days were put in a college fund for him. He was a student at Walla Walla College, which is a Seventh Day Adventist school, and I was going to Whitman. I was just walking down the street on my way to getting coffee and heard him play.

            “We began to talk and get together after that, and I knew he really wasn’t happy despite what he professed. I convinced him that he should take up his violin again – at first just playing duets with me and then joining a string quartet at Whitman. I was happy to be his confessor and his support as he rebuilt himself. Then, he fell in love with me and said he wanted to become gay and be my lover.”

            “And you’ve lived happily ever after,” Jake interjected.

            “Actually not. I felt comfortable with myself, but I want a life companion who is mature and knows what he wants to do in life. I wasn’t sure that Micah would be happy being gay, if you know what I mean. He’s nowhere near me on the Kinsey Scale. So, I had a lot of questions. Could he handle all the sacrifices being gay brings on? Was his infatuation with me a temporary one that might wither when things got tough? I was – no am to an extent – afraid that he had fallen in love with his rescuer, not with me, a gay man looking for a partner for life. I was – am – afraid any relationship would be too uncertain.

            “A little unpredictability in a lifemate would be welcome. In fact, a little wildness – tempered wildness – would be great.” At that, Robbie lifted his hand from the back of the couch, moved it above Jake’s head and pointed his finger down, tapping the air to show that he had the same opinion of his mate as David did of Micah.

            “Oh,” David said, as Robbie turned to give Jake a kiss. Jake looked a little bewildered at what was going on, which caused David and Robbie to giggle.

            “I understand your problem with being worshiped,” Jake said, his lips trying to stop a grin. “Robbie has this adulation of me that sometimes is so embarrassing. It’s because I saved him from a life of accountancy or whatever he does. All he wants to do is lick my feet – or something.”

            “Your feet? My ass. Well, your ass. I certainly don’t adore your movie-star looks, your auburn wavy hair, your eyes.” Robbie’s voice started to falter as he ended his description. He caught himself before he gave too much away. “The only adulation I have of you is for your five inches and your danglies. And anybody could have those.”

            “Danglies? Where did that word come from?”

            “It’s in Webster, I’m sure.”

            “Hmm. And the five inches comes from that stretchy ruler that you bought?”

            “Stretchy ruler?” David interjected with amusement.

            “David, it’s a gag ruler – 12 inches that can be stretched out to 24 inches or so. Each inch gets longer and longer as it gets stretched out. Robbie was jealous of my enormous size and kept pulling the end of the ruler out so the inches got longer and longer and I measured shorter and shorter. Then, of course, his hand slipped and the ruler – a strip of rubber, naturally – flew back into my privates.”

            “It didn’t hit your danglies.”

            David and Jake grimaced at that thought and the sympathetic pain that even a mention of being hit in the “danglies” meant.

            “It hit my seven inches…”

            “Six and a half.”

            “… and I lost a perfectly good erection.”

            “But I restored it for you later, didn’t I?”

            David shook his head back and forth as if he couldn’t believe this conversation.

            “I adore this man, my lifemate,” Jake said with real warmth in his voice.

            “And I adore you, lifemate.” Those expressions had to be sealed with a kiss. And they were.

            “Okay, let’s get serious again. Robbie’s and my relationship faced a similar situation. He rescued me; I worshiped him for it. But we managed to become equals, but only after he forced me to grow up.

            “So tell me about you and Micah?” Jake asked.

            “I’m saying that I love him somewhere between a brother, a lover and, a lifemate, which is a big range. Well, I’m beyond the brother stage now. I think I’m falling rapidly in serious love with him as an equal, and I know he’s in love with me, and now I think it’s become more than just gratitude-love. ”

            “I don’t mean to embarrass you, but are you guys, er, intimate?” Jake asked.

            “Not entirely.”

            “Oops, we didn’t ask if it was okay to put you in the same bedroom with Micah. We assumed that you were boyfriends after Micah announced you that way.”

            “Not to worry. I know Micah considers me his boyfriend, and I’m this far,” David held his thumb and finger about a quarter inch apart, “from considering him my boyfriend. So putting us in the same bedroom may end up as a catalyst. It’s easier to kiss that way, in any case, assuming he isn’t too deeply asleep to do anything.”

            “So, David, do you think Micah will achieve his greatness as a violinist?” Robbie asked, changing the subject and getting to the point of the quizzing of David.


            Robbie and Jake waited for David to continue.

            “Yes,” David repeated.

            More silence.

            “I am surmising this from what Micah has told me over the past few months, but here’s the long story, if you want to hear it.”

            “Shoot,” Jake said.

            David took a breath. “Micah didn’t have a normal childhood after he started with the violin. In fact, being adopted, he didn’t have a normal childhood at all until he went to the Kingmans. For whatever reasons, he became consumed with practices, lessons, chores and school. Micah poured himself into his music and got crazy with it, but he burned himself out. He finally snapped, somewhere into puberty.


            “I don’t know what straw broke his back. From what he’s said, I could surmise that his mother was unable to loosen the reins on him at a time when she should have, though I don’t really know this from firsthand observation. But it was as if all the childhood that he had missed needed to be experienced and in a very short time. So he regrouped and poured himself into being a teenager, and there wasn’t room for going wild and practicing and playing the violin at the same time. Plus, frankly, he was rebelling against the pressures put on him by his mom. He went through a bad period, hanging out with some low-life boys, and he got into trouble. His folks sent him to a wilderness program for anger management and then to a school in the Idaho wilderness for his senior year to get him out of his home environment. As far as I can tell, getting into trouble and being sent to the wilderness program and Idaho school broke much of his spirit – or subdued it, if that’s a verb.


            “So, I find a subdued, patched young man lacking any direction or motivation in his life, playing violin for tips on the streets of Walla Walla, and we began to rebuild our friendship. I was afraid that the patches that held him together were only loosely in place, I think, by a religion that he no longer could accept in its entirety and a life spent largely alone. We began to get together to play music casually, and our relationship grew. Micah began to talk about where he was in his life, and I encouraged him to reconsider his music as a career. He did, and he’s been practicing hard ever since – while at the same time improving his grades at Walla Walla College. In the meantime, he fell in love with me, which of course is causing conflicts with his religion and the school he is going to. There is a group of gay Seventh Day Adventists, by the way, called Kinship, but Walla Walla College doesn’t have a chapter.

            “Things were working out smoothly until he was hit with a couple of blows.


            “The first was from the Today Show, which had done a series years ago on child-prodigy musicians; he was one of those highlighted. “


            “I think we still have the tapes of that show,” Robbie said.


            “I’d like to see those some time. In any case, the Today people came back to do a follow-up on those kids that didn’t go on to become professional success. They were going to call his segment: Whatever Happened to the Guarneri Brave?  They went to the Idaho school that he attended for his senior year, they took pictures of Endicott and then they followed him to Walla Walla College. Micah refused to talk to them at first, but he finally relented. I’m not sure if they have aired his episodes yet.


            “Anyway, the Today crew made him look at where he was in life, and I think he found it wanting.


            “This is getting rather long, so do you want me to continue?”


            Robbie replenished David’s port glass as an answer.


            “The second blow was when he found that his roommate in Idaho, who was gay and because of that had been kicked out of his house by his parents, had AIDS – and he died on the streets of Spokane shortly after he ran across Micah in Walla Walla. Micah helped him in those final days but felt, I think, that he had let Casey – that was his name -- down.


            “Micah absorbed these blows – I realize that now – and we became closer, much closer.” David’s cheeks started to redden before he quickly continued. “I got him to join the Whitman String Quartet – I play the cello – and his interest in music continued its rebirth.


            “This has been a process. I think he’s taken over his own life and now he has returned the crutch I loaned him when I helped him out.


            “Which takes us up to this weekend…” David sat back; he was done.

            “So he needs our help,” Jake said.

            “Actually, he wants your help; I don’t think he needs your help. There’s a difference. I think he would make it now without you, but he loves the Guarneri violin, and he wants to ask you if he can borrow it again – assuming you still have it. I think there’s a deeper motive, however.  When he first got that violin, it meant something important to him: that he was worthy of it.  I think having it again would give him that same feeling, and maybe help put the years when he didn’t have it in a new, maybe easier to compartmentalize, context.”  David paused for a moment, thinking before he finished his thought. “Also, I think it means something to him to find you two still in his corner, still there for him after all this time and all he’s done.”

            “We are and we do, but don’t tell him. I want to see how he asks. Okay?” Jake said. “But it’s late now, so it’s off to the, uh, danglies for us.”  Robbie picked up the empty glasses, took them to the dishwasher and returned to meet Jake in the hall. David was ahead of them on the stairs.

            David opened the door to the bedroom quietly. Micah had left a low light on in the corner of the room and was asleep under the dark comforter, his India-ink hair sketched across the pillow, the Navajo-weave band that held his pony tail removed and sitting on the bedside table. David stood beside the bed and looked across at Micah as he unbuttoned his shirt and stripped down to his boxers, laying his clothes neatly on a chair. He stood one last time alongside the bed, then dropped his boxers to the floor and pulled back the comforter to stare at the soft, subtle-brown color of Micah’s naked body on the white sheets in the dim light of the bedside lamp. Micah stirred, a maybe-awake, maybe-asleep smile gracing his lips.

            David slipped into the bed next to Micah, closing the physical distance between them. Micah’s eyes fluttered open at the dip in the bed from David’s presence. “Is this it?” he asked.

            “This is it,” David responded. David’s face descended over Micah’s, and their lips met. They’d kissed deeply before, but this was electrically different. David pulled back and looked into Micah’s bright eyes that reflected the low light in the room. “Tonight’s for you. I want you to feel what physical love is like between two men who love each other. I want you to lie back and just enjoy it, enjoy us.”

            David rolled over on top of Micah, bracing himself on his forearms, keeping his lips pressed hard against Micah’s, and their skin blended for the first time – native-American and Scottish American chests and trunks and legs and hardened genitals – into a single entity. David began to move his body slowly back and forth against Micah.

            “Ooh, that’s nice,” Micah said, breaking the kiss.

            “It’s called frottage.”

            “Frontage?  I like it.”

            “No, no, frottage, frott-AHGE, from the French word meaning to rub.”

            “Frott-AHGE, frontage. I like frontage better, because that means you and I are physically together as much as we can be. I can feel our feet together – bony warm chests and then soft up here.” Micah leaned up and kissed David’s lips. “Frontage, that’s the word.”

            “You’re hopeless.”

            “Rub me some more.”

            “Not now, Bright Eyes.”

            “What now, then?”

            “Now this. Part two.” David slid off Micah to a position leaning over him. David’s kisses and caresses started at the eyelids, moved slowly down the basking body, teased past the genitals to the “bony” toes, then migrated slowly up the inside of the legs, ending up where they caused a primordial groan from Micah. 

            Micah wanted David both to slow down – please make it last –  and to speed up – more, more now, don’t stop – but David wasn’t about to stop, so soon Micah felt himself engulfed in unstoppable feelings that only ended in primal release and Micah’s realization that he held David’s head in his hands.

            David waited for the softness of completion, but it didn’t come. “You’re supposed to get soft,” David said as he pulled away from Micah’s body, “so I can come kiss you.”

            “Well, come kiss me, anyway, and give me some more of that frontage stuff. Warm me all over.”

            “Warm you? I can’t get you to cool off,” David said as he laid his lips on Micah’s and felt Micah’s undiminished hardness against his own.

            “Rub us together,” Micah commanded. “I want you to feel what I felt.”

            “You want frottage, you say?”

            “Frottage, frontage. Whatever.”

            Time from then on was measured in releases – two of them. “Does that mean you’re really my boyfriend?” Micah asked.

            “Yep.” And the kiss that followed lasted several minutes.

            “I didn’t know sex with love could be so different than just sex,” Micah said. “It’s the feelings before – that you want to give as well as receive – and the feelings after – that you want to hold your lover and keep him warm. I love you, David.”

            “I love you, too.”

            They fell asleep quickly – after a long day and night.

            Light was sluicing between the curtains when David stirred. He started to get up, but Micah pulled him back for a kiss. “My turn,” Micah said.

            David picked up his watch from the bedside table, looked at it twice and said: “It’s too late, Bright Eyes, we need to get going. Later?” He slipped on a bathrobe that was hanging in the closet, used the bathroom and descended the stairs to the kitchen. Micah was close behind him.

            “Mornin’,” Jake said, as he set his coffee cup down. “Did you guys sleep well?”

            Micah turned red in the face, which brought grins to the faces of Robbie and Jake. David jumped in, “We slept like angels.”

            “That good, huh?”

            “That good.” David smiled warmly and took Micah’s hand.

            Robbie and Jake looked at each other, both sensing that the relationship between Micah and David had moved up a notch overnight.

            “So you’re full-fledged boyfriends now, I take it?” Robbie asked.

            David and Micah looked at each other, and both said, “Yes.”

            “Coffee, orange juice, coffee cake, fresh fruit?” Robbie offered before the boys’ faces exploded in embarrassment.

            “Yes, yes, yes, yes,” Micah responded.

            “Me, too,” David said.

            The coffee was from Café Vidro, the orange juice was fresh-squeezed, the coffee cake was from Macrina’s, and there was a mixture of fruit from the Queen Anne QFC grocery. Everything was delicious and polished off completely. A new batch of coffee was started.

            “Thank you, from both of us,” Micah said as he took David’s hand, holding it, showing his love to Jake and Robbie.

            “I know you two have got to get on the road to Walla Walla, so let’s get down to what you came here for,” Jake said.

            “I came to ask you if I can borrow the Guarneri again, if it’s still available,” Micah said.

            “We still have it,” Jake said, trying to sound noncommittal.

            Micah only heard the words but not the tone. His last trepidations about the trip to Seattle fell by the way. His spirits soared. His eyes lit up. “When I play that violin, I can feel all the great violinists who have owned it. I can feel their emotions; I can sense what they played. The wood harbors the greatness of the notes that have been produced on it.”

            “But you had it and brought it back to us,” Jake said. He was still in the testing mode.

            “I brought it back, yes. I didn’t deserve to keep it then. I decided to take some time off, and my music took a back seat to my hormones and other problems for a few years.”

            Jake started to say something, but Micah interrupted him: “You’re going to ask me if I’ve gotten my sanity back.”

            “I wasn’t exactly going to put it that way, but…”

            “I think I have. I got a lot of my wild oats sowed. Did you know that some Amish encourage their young men to go out into the world and live a libertine life for a while so that their return is to a settled life. I feel like I’ve done something similar. I left the church of music for a while. I needed to roam free for a while – to drink, to date, to have sex, to try some drugs, to play basketball with my brother – in short, to rebel against the life I’d been living. I did that. I really messed things up. I fell into a deep pit that I never thought I could emerge from – until David threw $20 into my hat as I was playing my violin on the streets of Walla Walla.

            “David listened to me, he prodded me, he encouraged me – he picked me up off the sidewalk. I’ve started a music career again and that’s what I want to have for my life – plus David, if he’ll have me, and I think he will.” David took the cue and reached across the table to hold Micah’s hand.

            “So, I’m here to ask, to beg, if necessary, and to seek your support once again.”

            “Well, Robbie, what do you think? Do you think we should invite the other contestants in before we make a decision?” Jake winked at his lifemate, but they both knew what they were going to do.

            Robbie looked at the distress on Micah’s face and decided to call an end to the bantering. “Go get the Guarneri, Jake. This poor boy has undergone enough torment.” With that the sun virtually rose on Micah’s face, and tears poured from his eyes.

            Jake reached behind the couch they were sitting on, pulled out a violin case and handed it to Micah. “You have to get us aisle seats when you play in Carnegie Hall. That’s our price. And a seat for Marcia Vilas. She’s been waiting for you to come back, and you can ask for her help anytime you want – on  us.”

            Micah’s concentration, however, was on the Guarnari. He opened the case and brushed his fingers against the patina of wood as if the violin was a long-lost lover he was caressing. The tears that had begun a few moments earlier started to intensify, and Micah was soon wracked with sobs. His life of the past few years flashed before him.

            David put his arm around Micah and pulled him into a protective hug, letting the catharsis run its course. He mouthed a ‘thank you’ to Jake and Robbie, knowing that this visit to Seattle was another stepping stone toward the restoration of Micah to his potential. He felt happy for Micah, but he also was happy for himself, because what had happened the night before was a milestone in their relationship and not just an exploding star that would disappear in the heavens.

            “Oh, by the way, I have something else you can borrow,” Jake said. He reached behind the couch and pulled out a long slender case. “Here!” he said, handing the case to Micah. Micah opened it, looked carefully at the bow that was inside and began to sob again.

            “It’s a Tourte bow. Oh, God,” Micah said after looking more closely. “Thank you; thank you; thank you.” He turned to David. “This bow is probably 200 years old. It was made by François Tourte, who is as famous with bows as Stradivarius is with violins.” Jake beamed.

            Micah leaned over and kissed Jake and then Robbie on the cheek. “I’ll guard these both with my life,” Micah promised.

            David pointed to his watch, signaling it was time to get on the road.

            “I packed you guys some bread, cheese and fruit for your trip back,” Robbie said as Micah’s mood started to come down from the stratosphere. “I also put a bottle of Woodward Canyon Cabernet in for you – for when you get to Walla Walla – to celebrate your, er, becoming boyfriends – on your way, we hope, to becoming lifemates. Jake and I have fallen in love with you two. You both have so much to look forward to.”

            “God, that’s mushy. And it’s bad enough to give me a point.” Jake said as he put his mark in the air ledger.

            “Unfair. You said the very same thing this morning in bed.”

            “But that was in the heat of passion.”

            “Erase the point.”

            Jake opened up the air ledger again and rubbed the point out. “Do you see the crap I have to put up with?”

            The whole scene between Jake and Robbie had relaxed David and Micah and restored the convivial feeling amongst the four of them.

            “Why don’t you go get your stuff?” Robbie asked, “We need to get you on the road.”

            The trip back to Walla Walla was made more pleasurable with the recollections of the enjoyment of their stay in Seattle and the warmth of the parting. Micah promised he would get Jake and Robbie tickets for any performance where he would be playing – including, of course, Carnegie Hall.

            David pulled into Walla Walla five hours later – five hours because David refused to take Micah’s suggestion that they should take a couple of Frontage Road exits. “Tell me when you see a Frottage Road exit, and I’ll take it,” he had countered. They decided not to leave the violin and bow in the dorm room but at David’s place until they could figure out how to store them safely and properly.

            David dropped Micah off at his dorm. On Micah’s door was a letter on Walla Walla College letterhead with what could only be considered a summons.