It was that time of year again – hot during the day and cold during the night. Michael lay on his futon in his underwear. He was a tighty-whitey guy. The heat and sweat had made the gathering around his legs loose and it seemed that every time he moved his underwear slid uncomfortably up his ass cheek giving him a wedgy. He thought about getting up and doing some chores as he adjusted his underwear for the umpteenth time, but he was sad today and his body felt heavy, so heavy he could hardly move. Some Saturdays were about staying in bed.
Michael was micro living in the attic of an old house whose inspiration was a southern plantation. These had probably been imagined as slaves’ quarters, he mused, perhaps they had been for a nanny. The apartment consisted of four rooms – four rooms crammed into four hundred square feet of an apartment. Michael did his best to make poverty look fashionable and he was grateful that his occasional guests thought of his pad as cool. However; no insulation and single pane windows (that did not always shut completely) kept the apartment freezing in winter and sweltering in summer.
He had bought the plastic, tape, and heat gun necessary to insulate the windows. But it was a meticulous job he wasn’t feeling up to. He thought about calling up Dulcinea and seeing if she wanted to go to yoga, but sometimes yoga (oddly enough) put him in a bad mood. Thoughts of Dulcinea gave him a wedgy in a different direction and he rolled on his back.
Later he found his way out of bed and into a bath. The apartment didn’t have a shower as there wasn’t room for one due to the sloping ceilings. Most of the apartment wasn’t even useful as the ceiling sloped to 4 feet of wainscoting. He was forever bumping his head. The bath was wedged in an acute angle of wall and corner – four feet past a dormer window. If the toilet and bath could switch places, there would have been room for him to stand showering while looking out onto treetops.
He was a shower guy and it had been a challenge to relearn how to clean himself. Now he had come to find a bath as a guilty pleasure. He waited until his little plastic rubber temperature duckie reached 105 and then got in the tub. A little porcelain pitcher and sponge helped him rain water on himself. He had found it was a very relaxing way to get clean.
Cleaning was done. His body was scrubbed, and his hair was rinsed. He lay lethargically in tepid water. He found his thoughts returning to Dulcinea. Had they really been naked together in this very tub three days ago? Why did pleasure always seem to be so temporary while this pain in his heart seemed so constant.
Dulcinea, he mused, the town witch. She certainly was magical. And, she certainly had him under her spell. It had amused him to find out that this was how she was referred to in town after they first met – the town witch. A co-volunteer he was working with at the respite center for the homeless had been impressed by his casual conversation with Dulcinea. “Chatting up the town witch, handsome?” he had asked. Michael had laughed back and asked, “what makes her the town witch?”.
As far as he could tell it had something to do with her always wearing black when she first arrived in town and the fact that her one piece of jewelry had been a necklace of quartz crystal wrapped in silver wire. That had been enough in this town to have her “burned at the proverbial stake”.
She was remarkably comfortable to be around, and they had found so much stuff to talk about. One conversation flowed into the next effortlessly. They never ran out of things to say to each other and things to ask each other. They could discuss scientific books and wonder at their meaning then revert to playful imaginings – abstracting the science, telling each other wild stories trying to make the other guess if they were true.
One time after church Dulcinea had turned to him and told him that she had a dream a few weeks ago where she had been humming a song that she had heard in this church. She said she had woken up singing it and had sang it for an hour until her mind had been caught up by something else. It must have been an hour later, she said, that when she tried to remember the song again, she had completely forgotten it. She had been listening in church for the congregation to sing it again but so far they had not. “I think maybe I never heard it here,” she confided. “I think it must be a song from Fairy. They don’t let you remember everything you know,” she continued. “And even when they do let you keep a memory, it’s no guarantee they will let you have it forever,” she sighed wistfully.
Michael loved these flights of fantasy. He wasn’t even sure it was a lie. Maybe she did visit Fairy. He knew from experience that time occasionally ran different for him – faster sometimes, slower others. Sometimes he even thought he could feel the presence of things that weren’t there – like the evil presence near the train tracks. He had meant it playfully when he mentioned it to her at dinner when she had spoken of her dark cloud.
“On the path near the train tracks?” he had inquired. “Why would you say that?” she had asked. He had taken her hand reassuringly and then the waiter had arrived and they both let the moment pass – like the moment had been stolen from them by Fairy. That night had been their first intimate night together. And later, a bath. It was as he was sponging water onto her back that she began to talk to him of the serial killer that the town did not have.
She became the first person he shared with about why he was here. That he was looking for answers about his best friend Presley. He had died here. It had been ruled a suicide. He had been lying on the tracks and had been hit by a train. Dulcinea reclined into him and reached back to stroke Michael’s hair as they lay still in the tub. They could almost hear each other’s thoughts. A coincidence that they should both meet?
Much like Dulcinea, Presley was otherworldly. And like Dulcinea, they could spend hours and hours talking and talking. They had worked together as Mounties on the Canadian border. They had spent a lot of time in remote areas staying in rarely used cabins as they patrolled the boundary between Canada and the US. Presley had been perfect in so many ways. His clothes were always ironed, and his bed was always made. He was someone you would describe as “type A” personality. Presley could talk to anyone. Whenever they came to a town, Presley would know everyone by the time they left. He had a gift of gab and comradery that Michael envied. Isolation, video games, and semi nudity had provided the perfect environment for the blooming of their bromance.
The little apartment reminded him of the cabins that they had stayed in. His time with Dulcinea reminded him of the times they spent together.
Their intimacy had scared Michael even as he hungered for it and he had been terrified he was turning homosexual – maybe this is why he had never really had a connection with a woman. One night they had gotten drunk and horse play had led to caressing and kissing. To Michael’s dismay It had grossed him out. He had even thought he was going to vomit. It had just seemed so – against God’s plan. He had laughing pushed Presley away saying “well, that was a mistake.” At the same time he said this Presley said “I love you”.
They spent the rest of the winter coming out of the closet to each other. Michael as a straight man and Presley as a gay one. Presley explained that Michaels reaction to him was exactly what he experienced when he tried to be intimate with women. Michael in turn confessed that sex with women had come easy to him and he enjoyed it tremendously, but he had never been in love. He had never enjoyed the easy way he had of being with Presley with a woman. “I love you dude. And I always wished for someone to love me like you do. I wish I could love you back in the same way.”
They both agreed to put in for different partners after their winter patrol. At the time it had seemed for the best, but Michael had always wondered if they should have found a different way. With no role models of their own, maybe they could have explored being role models for someone else.
They had promised to keep in touch but then Presley had found a boyfriend – of course he had. They had lost track of each other for a few years and Michael had been surprised to find out (from someone they had both worked with) that Presley had slipped into depression and mental illness and then drugs (or maybe it was the other way around). A year later he ran into their mutual friend again and had discovered that Presley was dead – last seen in this American town on the west coast.
That’s why he was here. To find out what had happened to his best friend – the only person he had ever loved. Presley had brought him here, he thought as he got out of the tub and into a towel. Presley had brought him to Dulcinea. It was a sudden flash of insight – his old love was introducing his new.