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TRAVEL PORTRAIT 64: September 16, 2017

Out of the Wilderness [one | two | three | four | five | part six | seven | eight] [listen]

FICTION

I

"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.


II

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."


III

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 attention."

"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 space."

"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," she goaded.

"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 'subtextual comprehension'."

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, her.


IV

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 stance.

"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 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.


V

"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."

"Celia, darling."

"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.

Feel free to exercise thought by sending me an email regarding preparation nuances. You may eat easy when you eat ingredients. (Disclaimer)
Copyright © 2017 by Edward K. Brown II, All Rights Reserved.