"Jeremy, no wait, Jeremy... Jeremy, stop! Listen to me!!"
There was a gunshot. Alerted, Frank awakened alarmed. He fluttered
his eyelids, then rubbed them with his right hand. He scanned
the room and figured out that he did not fall asleep sitting upright
on his couch in front of his television at home. He was sitting
on Brian's couch, in front of Brian's television, in Brian's apartment.
Yawning, Frank saw that a black-and-white movie was midway, presumably,
through the plot. There was a chase scene. The protagonist was
being chased through a series of tunnels. Frank located the remote
control, which had fallen out of his hand and onto the floor when
he dozed off. He wanted to know the name of the B-movie. He tried
to find the information button on the remote.
"Jeremy, stop accusing me," shouted Brian as he stormed
into the living room.
Startled, Frank pressed the power button on the remote while
looking left over his shoulder to find out why Brian was so upset.
Holding his cellphone up to his ear, Brian was dressed in a tightly
belted, full-length white terrycloth robe; he was barefoot.
"Jeremy, please calm down, Nothing is happening."
From behind, Brain walked around the couch and stood beside the
right armrest, which was parallel to the office door. He gestured
with his free hand the universal sign of a person ranting; his
fingers, pressed together as if glued, in unison opened and closed
on his thumb, simulating a chatterbox mouth--Jeremy's presumably.
Frank smiled with a quizzical look on his face; Brian had a tiresome
look on his.
"Yes, Jeremy. I'm going into my office as I speak."
Unintentionally glaring at Frank, Brian pointed over his shoulder
with his thumb to his office door as he chimed, "give me
a break," into the phone. He crossed his eyes, furled his
lips, then let slip from his mouth a series of profanities, revealing
a side of himself that he did not want to expose to his guest,
who was watching the scene play out.
"Jeremy," Brian huffed, and his feet began to pitter-patter.
"I met him at the show--the one that closed last month. At
the opening, yes."
Brian opened the door to his office. He motioned to Frank. Using
his index finger, Brian pantomimed a wooden stake piercing his
heart. Instantaneously, his head dropped sideways as his tongue
jutted out the corner of his mouth, downwards. After his peak
performance, Brian stepped into his office, closing the door softly
behind him as he asked Jeremy if he could call him back on the
landline--and talk business.
Frank could not imagine what Brian's antics meant. He was curious,
however, what business his would-be mentor was abut to discuss
behind the closed door. Frank did not have to strain his ears
to hear the conversation, though muted slightly.
"I don't care what that gossiping snitch at the diner told
you. He's a prospective collaborator on the project. Yes, he's
here. Yes, 'in the apartment right at this moment'. No, I haven't
told him, yet. We can't possibly do all the grunt work ourselves.
Like I told you, I'm in the office. No, he can't hear me. His
name is Frank. He's from out of town. Now wait a minute.., wait!"
"About what you typed up--I haven't looked at your summary.
C'mon, you just finished! I saw you typing--on my computer screen.
Yes, I can see that you are working. Very good, thanks. That's
right--I am timing this 'talk' we are having because it's starting
to take its toll."
"Listen, I have the document. We'll talk after I've had
the chance to read the damned piece. I'm certain, a fine article.
I'll see you later, right? Fine, I won't hold my breath. Bye."
Brian stayed in his office and remained silent--perhaps reading
the article, speculated Frank, who, reflecting on how intense
Brian was when they met at the diner, wondered if he stepped into
a high stress zone. What kind of grunt work did Brian have in
mind: proofreading, research, gofer? The same awkwardness Frank
felt earlier at the diner was starting to consume him. He went
to the bathroom.
A buzzer sounded.
"That's probably Celia," announced Brian from behind
the closed door.
The buzzer sounded again.
"Do you mind getting that?"
"Sure," replied Frank through the shared wall between
the adjacent room from where the beckon was hearkened.
Frank dried his washed hands.
"Flush," peeved Brian.
"Sorry. (Oh gosh.)"
Frank, nervous, put the commode seat down as well before darting
to the intercom and pressing the button to release the front entrance
non-fail safe lock. He opened the apartment door to greet Celia
as she exited the elevator and made her way down the hall. She
was carrying a pizza box that had a brown paper bag on top.
"Who are you? Where's Brian," interrogated Celia, walking
straight into the kitchen without even taking a glance at Frank.
Strangers in Brian's apartment was nothing new to her. She placed
the pizza box on the counter.
"Um, Brian is in his office--working, I think."
Believing that Brian was not thrilled about going to the show
tonight, Frank thought it best to cover for his potential employer.
"Brian received an urgent phone call that required his immediate
"Who called, Jeremy?"
Celia smirked while shaking her head. Frank, not knowing how
she guessed, remained silent.
Having caught this perceived naif off-guard, Celia asked him
if he was ever in a rent-controlled romance before.
"I wouldn't. I mean, I haven't. I'm in town visiting."
Realizing that he sounded paranoid, embarrassed, he asked what
she meant by a 'rent-controlled romance'.
Celia chuckled at Frank's gut reaction and ignorance.
"It's similar to a long distance relationship, only it's
not. A rent-controlled romance is when two people are involved
in a meaningful physical relationship, but they don't want to
live together because neither wants to give up the apartment due
to (a) the lease does not permit more than one resident, or (b)
the practical fact that they are actually incompatible and they
don't want to risk loosing the affordable rent.
"Oh yeah. When I met Brian, he mentioned the apartment.
He even gave me a grand tour, like he wanted me to sublet the
"He'd never do that," Celia contested. "Sublet
to another man? Jeremy would never allow that to happen."
"Well, that was my impression."
"If Brian was going to sublet, he would have given me first
dibs. He knows I hate having a roommate."
"Don't worry. I am not interested in living in the apartment.
I was just saying."
"So then, you and Brian are fling-mates, is that right?"
"No!" Frank panicked.
Celia was having fun. She enjoyed provoking Frank, backing him
into a corner.
"So, you're another loner Brian decided to take in. I guess
he found something worthwhile in you, huh?"
"He has a new project and he needs some additional help. I'm
here on business. I met Brian at a gallery opening last month.
I'm a freelancer: curatorial critical essays, and such."
"And such, what? Bullshit?! Brian is such a mess,"
"No he's not."
"Childish," Celia said to herself as she looked away
and crossed her arms.
Frank, disgusted for being so defensive, took a deep breath
through his nostrils. Regaining his composure, he continued.
"I write essays. I write using a paradigm that I have termed
Celia chortled, glad that she was in control of Frank's wanting
to validate himself. She unfolded her arms and told him to relax.
She opened the refrigerator and grabbed a beer, which she offered
to Frank, who accepted graciously. She got one for herself, then
reached into a drawer to retrieve a bottle opener.
Having developed a personality profile on Frank, Celia decided
to check him out--and he, based on their confrontational interaction,
Celia realized that she had not taken off her jacket. She went
over to the couch and tossed the jacket frivolously. Self-aware,
she hunched her shoulders forward when she returned to the kitchen,
cautious not to flaunt her allure.
While she removed her coat, Frank noticed that she was wearing
a similarly styled leather moto jacket as her godfather, though
hers was well perfumed. Despite the pretty fragrance, Celia was
more butch; whereas Brian had a funky panache.
Celia thought Frank cute, but somewhat frustrated. A prone babbler,
she surmised. His attire did not appeal to her: too bland and
bourgeois for her taste though his maroon long sleeve polo shirt
matched her wine-colored long sleeve midi dress. Frank's cropped
hair did not conflict with her slicked back 'doo', the remaining
length tied into a uncomplicated low flat twisted bun, that rested
at her nuque. The affect accentuated her angular cheekbones and
firm jawline. Her ears were small, lobeless, rosy--intricate enough
that she did not ornament them. Whereas Frank's ears protruded
slightly, complimenting his pudgy face, without distracting from
his knobby chin. His eyebrows were fluffy, albeit lacking bushiness.
His lips were expressionless, almost streamline given his small
mouth. To indicate a smile, he was forced to show teeth; his horizontal
line with a dimple at each endpoint made Celia chuckle. Her upper
lip was full; her lower, not as much--and, because of her overbite,
disappeared when she smiled. Her glee was expressed by her pitched
eyebrows; dramatic and natural, the contour began at the bridge
of her nose. Celia's almond-shaped eyes were not piercing. Twinkly
brown, they bemused Frank's owl-like oculars.
Celia intimidated the man by positioning her head in a manner
that emphasized her cranial prowess. She crossed her arms and
leaned back on the kitchen counter, camouflaging her aggressive
"Staying long? My uncle and I have plans for tonight. Pizza?"
"For the weekend. He got me a ticket, last minute. A slice?
Sure. Brian mentioned that you were his goddaughter."
"So he told you about me and his filial preference, huh.
Grab a paper plate out of the bag--one for me too would you? What
else did he say about me?"
Frank put his beer on the stove top, opened the paper bag, placed
the plates beside the pizza box, then opened the lid.
"I hope you like anchovies and mushrooms," she said
not caring if he did or not. "I'll have a small slice. Do
you like flamenco?"
Not paying attention to what Celia asked, Frank replied, "Oh,
that's fine." He focused on the cut of the pie, inspecting
topping proportions in relation to the size of the slice.
"Flamenco--is that a type of pizza sauce," he inquired,
looking up from what he was doing with a scrunched face.
"No, idiot," Celia thought to herself. Aloud she retorted,
"The show we're going to see tonight is flamenco, a guitarist.
Yes, that one."
"That slice. I'll have that slice! Jeez!"
"Oh, fla-men-co guitar," stated Frank motioning with
his hands as if playing a guitar. "May I ask, are you into
the Arts? I mean, are you working on 'the project' with Brian?"
Celia took a sip of beer, leaned forward and took the plate from
Frank before expressing her displeasure.
"Hey look. Don't ask me. You're the person crashing my evening.
I have no clue who you are, why Brian thought to invite you. I'm
allowed to be inquisitive, not you."
Celia stood there snarling, holding a plate of pizza in one hand
and a bottle of beer in the other.
"Perhaps we should sit down at the dining table," suggested
Frank, closing the lid on the pizza box.
"Why not," agreed Celia, walking into the living room,
leaving Frank behind.
Brian left his office when he heard his godchild's clunky-shoe
cadence on the hardwood floors. He knew her rhythmic stomping
indicated that she was emphasizing her authority, territorializing
her space. Her 'fancy footwork' tantalized Frank.
"My little darling!"
Brian strode towards Celia and gave her a closed-eyed bear hug.
She loosely wrapped her arms around him, trying not to have the
pizza slice slide off the paper plate onto the floor, nor splash
the beer onto his robe.
"You're not even dressed," she admonished giving him
the once over after disengaging from the tight squeeze.
"Have you saved me a few slices," he asked hungrily.
After an extended sigh, she replied, "Of course! I just
got here. You have your priorities, don't you."
Frank stepped out of the kitchen area and interjected, "Brian,
should I get you a few slices and a beer?" Frank placed his
own food and drink on the dining table.
Brian averted his eyes from Celia, dumbfounded, and took a deep
breath. Regaining his composure, Brian pouted disingenuously and,
in a hushed voice, asked an obvious question.
"Have you met Frank?"
"Yes. Why didn't you tell me!"
Celia spoke out of the side of her mouth to mute her dissatisfied
tone. She took a step back, turned away from Brian and proceeded
to sit down on the couch at the coffee table instead of with Frank.
Celia did not use a coaster for her beer, nor did she consider
using a placemat for her plate.
Brian followed her over to the couch and moved her jacket before
he sat down.
"Sorry, I forgot."
"About who, me or him? Why don't you get some food and sit
with him. You don't want to be rude. Looks like he needs the company."
"Hey, we have to get out of here soon--in about an hour
or so. By the way, how's Jeremy?"
Celia had her tough way of shirking off her godfather and making
him feel like a jerk."
Brian rose from the couch without responding to the question.
He went into the kitchen, poured himself a glass of water, and
grabbed a couple slices and took a bite before placing them on
a ceramic plate. He walked into his bedroom and closed the door,
leaving Frank and Celia on their own.
The three reconciled the situation to themselves. Brian was content
with what he considered to be a minor conflict. He liked the tension.
Despite her tantrum, Celia was mildly irritated--but, she was
familiar with the avuncular antics. Whereas Frank was feeling
a bit out of his depth, not with Brian, but with Celia by the
fact that she was able to depose him with the greatest of ease.
She got him to divulge the extent of his relationship with Brian
as well as how much background Brian disclosed about her. Bedazzled,
Frank accepted that Celia was more artful than Brian in getting
him to reveal himself subtextually.
"The bedroom is Brian's man cave," quipped Celia.
"Ah," grunted Frank under his breath.